I’ll be honest and tell you that I couldn’t care less about auto racing. The idea of spending my time watching a bunch of cars go around a track — much less caring which car finished first — is beyond my comprehension. I’m sure other people feel that way about sports I love, but car racing seems bizarre to me.
It’s hard to consider it a sport when the biggest key to strategy is to go as fast as you can and keep turning left. (The Onion had my all-time favorite satire of NASCAR.)
But news from the world of NASCAR caught my attention Friday when there was buzz that five drivers had declined an invitation to the White House to meet with Barack Obama. (One of them later said he actually will be there.) Not only can I not understand why this is news, but I can’t understand why all the other people who receive similar invitations don’t do the same thing.
Somewhere along the way in this country, we’ve started acting as though the president is a big deal and should be treated like royalty. If the apparatus of government were limited to the powers it should have, a peacetime president would have nearly as much power and appeal as the general manager of your local water purification plant. We need to quit treating presidents as though they hold an office worthy of automatic respect.
Some people were apoplectic about the snub. One media outlet said:
“Regardless of one’s political views, the president is still the president — and an opportunity to speak with the leader of the free world is a rare and special one. … After all, this is the President of the United States we’re talking about here.”
So what? Why should anyone care that a politician has invited him to come to the White House for a political public relations event?
If this started to be the attitude across the board — regardless of who was president and regardless who was invited — I’d be much happier. Sadly, I think it’s pretty clear that politics plays a role, just because Obama isn’t popular with the largely blue-collar conservative audience of NASCAR. Still, it’s a start.
There aren’t any presidents I respect. Unless I had business to conduct at the White House, I wouldn’t be accepting any invitations to show up to smile at cameras with a president. Of course, considering my attitude and political beliefs, I’m one of the last who has to be concerned about how to politely decline such an invitation — since one is very unlikely to be issued.