Monday, August 11, 2008

Cokie Roberts on Obama in Hawaii

Barack Obama is on vacation this week in Hawaii. I think that's a good idea - the man has been working incredibly hard, and he's about to go into an American campaign for president. He'll be lucky to have a day off once a month between now and November 4th.

Some people, however, are not impressed with his decision to go to Hawaii. One of those people is Cokie Roberts. Talking Points Memo has the video of her on TV on Sunday on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. She acknowledges that "Hawaii is a state," but thinks it's too foreign and exotic. Instead, she suggests that he go to some place like Myrtle Beach.

David Kurtz, at TPM, thinks this is ridiculous. Of course Hawaii is a state. And Obama was BORN there. And his grandmother lives there. Why wouldn't he go there for a vacation?

Meanwhile, no one has mentioned, in the course of covering this, how many vacation days Bush has taken in the last 7 years.

I can see Kurtz's point, but I would like to give Cokie some slack. I had a friend in DC who once worked for Cokie Roberts as her personal assistant, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I like Cokie Roberts, she seems very nice. I'd like to provide some perspective here.

Cokie Roberts was born in 1943. Hawaii was admitted to the Union in 1959. So Cokie Roberts was 15 when Hawaii became a state. Her father, Hale Boggs, was a U.S. Representative from Louisiana when Hawaii was admitted. So, for her, Hawaii is exotic. She didn't grow up with people who regularly went to Hawaii on vacation.

Part of the reason that people in the 1940's and '50's didn't travel to Hawaii was that travel by jet airplanes didn't start carrying passengers until the late 1950's. Hawaii was one of the first places served by jets, right around the time when it became a state.

So I think it's perfectly understandable for Cokie Roberts to think of Hawaii as an exotic place to go on vacation. For her, growing up in Louisiana, I'm sure it was very exotic. And incredibly expensive to get to. Imagine what it would have required to travel to Hawaii in that era: you would have had to get to either San Francisco or Los Angeles, which might have easily required multiple planes, and THEN you could get to Hawaii. We're talking a two or three day trip, each way. So, if you did go, you would have wanted to stay at least a week, if not two, just to justify all the time involved to get there. I've been to Hawaii, and I know many people who have. We can get there in six hours, which is just part of a day. But during Cokie Roberts' youth, the only people who could have afforded to go to Hawaii would have been the wealthy, the kind of people who could afford to travel to an exotic location for two or three weeks. No wonder she thinks it's an exotic place to go on vacation.

I'm posting about this apparently trivial comment because I think this is an example of cross-generational understanding that has been cropping up during this campaign, and that will continue to come up. As an Obama supporter, I take a certain responsibility to try to listen, as Obama does, to people who I disagree with. I disagree with Cokie Roberts that Hawaii is an exotic place to visit, but, looking at a few facts, I think I can see why she thinks that.

Watching the clip, I don't think she was so much critical of Obama as she was worried about him. I think she doesn't want to him to vacation in Hawaii because that makes him look elitist and foreign. And she doesn't want him to look elitist and foreign because she wants him to win. She's probably been to Hawaii herself, but I'm guessing that she knows lots of people older than her, particularly back in Louisiana (she now lives in Maryland), who have never been to Hawaii, and for whom it really is exotic and foreign.

Just trying to smooth the waters here.

1 comment:

Repack Rider said...

I go with Occam's Razor (The simplest explanation is the most likely).

Roberts has always been an idiot and a shill, and this is just the latest evidence.