It’s All Fun and Games Until Obama’s Feelings Get Hurt

Making fun of the president was a grand American tradition … until now.

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This photo provided by Jameson Hsieh shows a clown wearing a mask intended to look like President Obama at the Missouri State Fair. The announcer asked the crowd if anyone wanted to see “Obama run down by a bull,” according to a spectator. “So then everybody screamed. ... They just went wild,” said Perry Beam, who attended the rodeo at the State Fair in Sedalia on Saturday Aug. 10, 2013. State Fair officials apologized calling the display inappropriate and disrespectful.

Officials at the Missouri State Fair have banned for life a rodeo clown who entertained spectators during a bull riding contest while wearing a Barack Obama mask. "The rodeo clown won't be allowed to participate or perform at the fair again," the Associated Press reported Monday. "Fair officials say they're also reviewing whether to take any action against the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association, the contractor responsible for Saturday's event."

It's an extreme response but not a surprising one. For those who came in late the unwritten rules are simple: It's okay to wear a Nixon, Reagan or George W. Bush mask. A Barack Obama mask? No so much.

Making fun of the President of the United States is what we do in America. It's a subtle reminder that we are a nation of laws, not of men, and that we threw off the monarchy more than 225 years ago and have not looked back since. We poke fun at our elected leaders to keep them from getting too big for their britches, to remind them – and ourselves – that we are all just citizens, some having been chosen by the rest of us to carry a greater share of the responsibility for the conduct of civic affairs.

[Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

From Mark Twain to Will Rodgers, from Fred Allen to Mort Sahl, Johnny Carson and Jay Leno, humorists, clowns and comedians have made taking shots at politicians their bread and butter. Until Barack Obama that is.

In days past, making fun of the president, not just his policies but the man himself, was no big deal. Some, like FDR, Kennedy and Reagan, appeared to take it in stride and were able to give as good as they got. Others, like Nixon, found little to laugh at. Obama is different. People are all too sensitive about what passes for funny where he is concerned, lest it displace him from the pedestal on which his supporters have placed him.

Overall this sensitivity reflects what might be called a latent insecurity about his job performance, about his ability to lead the nation that brings to mind the story of the emperor and his new suit of clothes.

President Obama's policies have failed in large measure. The post-recession growth in the economy has been the most anemic since the end of World War II. The official unemployment rate during his time in office has consistently been over 7 percent, while the real unemployment rate, which includes people who have simply stopped looking for work, is closer to 14 percent. His signature health care law is a mess even before it is fully implemented, the latest example being Tuesday's report that the caps on out-of-pocket health care costs the statute imposed starting in 2014 are being pushed back to 2015. America is even less popular abroad than it was under George W. Bush and our relations with the Chinese, the Russians and the Islamic world – three hot button flash points – have all worsened. And yet, somehow, making fun of the president is in some ways still off limits.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Obamacare.]

Taste is not a factor here. There were plenty of things that were written about George W. Bush and said about Ronald Reagan that were in very bad taste, yet some people laughed and the tellers of the tale got away with it. Under Obama, people are so fawningly, stupidly concerned about hidden meanings and matters of perception that they are falling all over themselves to avoid giving offense.

It is unfortunate the culture has been changed in this way, for comedy's sake as well as the nation's well-being. It may be a naturally defensive posture to take given that the Alinskites who worship Obama and all that he stands for use public shaming as a rather effective bludgeon against anyone who gets in their way. As has been previously noted, in the age of the community organizer president the ones who scream the loudest, longest often win even when the facts are not on their side.

A lifetime ban on a poor rodeo clown who wore an Obama mask, when there is, as the AP noted, a tradition of poking fun at all presidents in the same way in that venue, is not only extreme but borders on Stalinist. Remember, a bad joke told in Soviet Russia could get one sent to the gulag. In this case the offender should probably be grateful he is only being sent to the unemployment line.

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