At the recent White House correspondents' dinner, President Obama joked about the fact that because he's in the "fourth quarter" of his presidency, people are asking whether he has a "bucket list". According to "The Hill",
"Obama mocked critics of his recent unilateral moves, saying he maintains "something that rhymes with 'bucket list."Essentially, the President of the United States used a subtle rhyme to allude to a crude four-letter term, allowing him essentially to curse without cursing.
"Executive action on immigration? Bucket," Obama said to laughs. "New climate regulations? Bucket. It's the right thing to do.
It was funny and clever. But it was also inappropriate.
This isn't the first time members of the Obama White House have resorted to profanity to make their point. Late last year, Jeffrey Goldberg famously quoted a senior administration member calling Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu a chicken#$@!. Whether you agree with the administration's position or not, use of profanity - and even the allusion to profanity - is unbecoming of a head of state, and reflects badly not only on the individual who makes the comment, but on the people he or she represents. Do we really want to see members of Congress cursing (using veiled references, of course) at each-other, or at the President when they disagree?
Many Americans may indeed speak this way in their private lives, and we certainly hear plenty of profanity in the media. But there has always been a higher standard of discourse in the public sphere. This latest example of presidential license does not bode well for respectful and courteous discourse in the future.
This isn't to suggest that politician have to like or agree with each other. Far from it. Yet we can and should expect them to creatively and cleverly insult one-another without having to resort to vulgarity. The President - and his writers - could have, and should have, left this joke off the speech.