A world leader should be applauded, not criticised, for going to the theatre
President Obama promised his wife during a gruelling election campaign that when it was over he would take her to a Broadway show. He fulfilled that campaign pledge on Saturday. The couple attended a performance of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone by the late August Wilson and then went to a restaurant. They travelled by official plane and motorcade, at public expense and causing traffic disruption: hence Republican criticism of supposed extravagance at a time of economic hardship for Americans. The criticism is worse than mean spirited: it is wrong.
The President is of necessity a public figure rather than any longer a private citizen. That does not mean he should live in an official cocoon. It does entail that he travels by official transport to ensure his safety. The notion that he would be a better public servant if he were denied the private pleasures of theatre-going and dining in company is hard to fathom. The only ostensible sense it makes is that the arts and good food are fripperies that a world leader should have neither need nor time to indulge in. That is dangerous as well as arrant nonsense.
As Denis Healey, the most cultured of postwar British politicians, recalled in retirement: “Without the arts, politics would before long have encrusted me in a horny carapace; my persona would have taken over from my personality, and the mask would have become the man.”
Without an appreciation of a world more enduring than statecraft, a politician lacks a collective wisdom provided by artists, and a source of solace in hard times. Put simply ; All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And President Obama is not dull.
Sir Dayvd ( who plays rather more than he works ) of Oxfordshire