July 6, 2011 9:06AM

Will ‘the People’ Fall for It?

Today POLITICO Arena asks:

President Barack Obama is taking a cue from President Bill Clinton by pushing a series of bite‐​sized policies. Among them: a new fatherhood pledge, graphic tobacco warnings, updated sunscreen requirements, an anti‐​bullying summit and entertainment discounts for fathers to spend more time with their kids. Can he use this “school uniforms” approach to effectively appear above the daily partisan Washington sniping? And is this “small ball” approach a retreat from the grander “change we can believe in” vision candidate Obama touted in the 2008 campaign?

My response:

The president has two main responsibilities: internationally, to oversee the nation’s foreign policy; domestically, to see that the laws be faithfully executed. For Obama to devote his attention to trivia like this is not only to demean the office of the presidency — recall Clinton’s “boxers or briefs” incident — but to play to the basest instincts of the electorate.

Unfortunately, in a country in which nearly 60 percent of adults don’t know when we declared our independence and a quarter don’t know from what country, Obama’s “small ball” politics may work. This is a president who couldn’t get a budget passed for two years, despite having huge majorities in Congress, yet he’s got time for this. Perhaps H.L. Mencken put it best: “People deserve the government they get, and they deserve to get it good and hard.” I didn’t know Obama was a student of Mencken.