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The Rabbi on the Beach @ The Shul on the Beach

Our (more) Casual President


You may have noticed I steer clear of politics. This post is NOT about politics. It is about the last three presidents. It is more about their attitudes than anything else. Again, this is not about politics.

Even before this New York Times article hit the streets I had made the same observation. It seems that Presidents Obama and Bush differ on more than just politics. President Obama’s White House has a decidedly different feel.

The article mentions different dress codes and different schedules. I remember when President Bush took office there was much fanfare about his changes in the White House as well. In fact I was able to find a New York Times article from 2001 written shortly after President Bush took office. The article about President Bush lauds the new regime (at the time) for returning formality to the White House. Meetings ended on schedule, aides were well dressed formal rules of cordiality were expected and the atmosphere was a professional one. This was a stark contrast to the Clinton years where the Government reflected the freewheeling president. Bush sought to put respect back into the Presidency. He followed a president that many found it hard to respect. Bush used the dress code to symbolize that break.

President Obama is breaking off from President Bush’s formality. The dress code is gone and Mr. President himself is often at meetings with his jacket off. His day starts later and he is frequently seen wandering the halls of the White House. Very informal. Obama follows a president who many felt was too stubborn. Obama is trying to make a break from the Bush presidency. He too is using the dress code to symbolize that break.

I also find it fascinating that these 2 New York Times articles are so similar in their tone. They are excited about the change and think the new way is so great while the old way was ineffective. That is the power of the media. They know how to make good news bad news and bad news good news.

All this dress code talk has absolutely nothing to do with the success or failures of being a president. This has nothing to do with foreign policy, economics or size of the government. What we are noting here is the difference in office structure and atmosphere. I am all for casual; I prefer casual. However, I do think that the highest ranking civilian in our country should be more formal. I am  little disappointed that the new president has changed the dress code and is now less formal. I remember feeling just the opposite when Bush reversed the Clinton dress code. My opinion is unrelated to any other area of his presidency. I just wish he would have kept the jeans wearing aides out.

The way we dress influences how we act. When you are dressed formally you are more likely to act formally. I want my president formal. Call me old-fashioned but that’s just me…

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9 Responses

  1. […] clothes. I commented on the espn.com article about wearing pants while playing basketball and then I commented on the President’s dress code. While I was preparing for the Torah learning portion of Connections this week I was drawn to […]

  2. […] of weeks I have blogged about wearing shorts while playing basketball and then I blogged about the new dress code in the White House and then on Monday night I spoke about the power of clothes and Tzitzis. It makes me think I should […]

  3. […] of what we talk about was related to this post, as well as these two posts and this post as […]

  4. Raphael Zidovetzki says:

    “…Bush sought to put respect back into the Presidency…”

    He certainly went about it in a wrong way. First thing a president should worry about is having a brain, rather than a nice suit. The presidency lost enormous amount of respect during the Bush years, both here and, especially, abroad, his attire notwithstanding…

    • rabbifink says:

      Not the point. I specifically sought to avoid politics.

      The issue was the NY Times article lauding Bush for his attire when he entered office and then again lauding Obama for his casual dress when he entered office. This has nothing to do with politics. The NY Times found that by changing the White House dress code Bush was changing the culture from the “free-wheeling” Clinton years.

      • Raphael Zidovetzki says:

        then I perhaps misunderstood: was it you who said “…Bush sought to put respect back into the Presidency…”, or NY Times?

        Generally, avoiding politics when discussing respect to a president is like avoiding mortality statistics when discussing a physician…

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