Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen

This image caught my eye as I was watching a documentary about Air Force One, but it wasn’t because of the fact that the White House figures out a creative way to somehow put a Presidential seal on everything. I actually like that — the Presidency is a brand (not the individual Presidents themselves, but the office that they occupy) and that brand symbolizes power and freedom and majesty. It gives regular politicians the confidence to believe that they can do a job which, in reality, is far too big and tough and complex for a single person to execute while still retaining their sanity. And it connects the people to their President — a bridge that is extraordinarily important in order for Americans to feel some ownership, to deeply care about what is going on, to feel like the Presidency belongs to us and that it truly is up to us to decide who gets the honor of living in the White House on our behalf.

Stamping that seal on every surface or playing “Hail to the Chief" or using the instantly recognizable Presidential aircraft as a massive background prop for photo opportunities or piling VIPs into a motorcade that is always closer to a military operation than a form of transportation are ways of extending that brand and letting us know, "I am your President, and I am working for you." It’s like the Bat-Signal in reverse. That Bat-Signal is illuminated to let Batman know that his help is needed; putting the Presidential seal on seat belt buckles, pillowcases, M&Ms, ,etc, etc, etc, is a way for the President to tell us, "Don’t worry, I’ve got your back…and, also, here are some M&Ms."

So, what is it about this image that caught my eye and instigated this unsolicited, unnecessary tangent that most of my readers likely bailed out on around sentence number three (for those still around, thank you, and I’ll be happy to send you an autographed 8”x12” glossy photograph of myself if you send me $10, a self-addressed-stamped-envelope, and an 8”x12” glossy photograph of me)?

It’s simple — that’s obviously a seat belt in a passenger’s seat on Air Force One. As mentioned above, the Presidential seal is all good. But it really seems like we could have done without the “LIFT”. Is that really a necessity? Instructions? Were members of the White House staff or the traveling press corps getting stuck in their seats? Was there a meeting in the Situation Room where the principals discussed potential targets for Predator drone strikes that was interrupted by someone raising their hand and saying, “Mr. President, I hate to change the subject, but can we get a decision on how we’re going to move forward with unbuckling our seat belts aboard Air Force One?”

I’m actually really curious about this. Were the “LIFT” instructions on the seat belts — much like the prison at Guantánamo — a holdover from George W. Bush’s Administration that Obama simply can’t find a way to eliminate? After all, President Bush did choke on a pretzel and pass out during his Presidency. Maybe the Secret Service heard a vicious struggle in Bush’s private cabin aboard Air Force One early in his term, forced their way inside preparing for the worst, and found a sweaty, exhausted President straining against the seat belt which was holding him captive in his seat. Maybe President Bush ordered the Secret Service to take “lethal measures” in order to free him from the seat belt but the agents instead suggested, “We can actually just create step-by-step instructions that might help avoid this in the future. First step: LIFT. Second step: You’re free because it only requires one, shockingly simple step.”

Who knows the reasoning behind the seat belt instructions? I just feel that, in the good old days, nobody would have needed any extra assistance. Whatever happened to “the best and the brightest”? What happened to filling the White House offices with brilliant staffers and surrounding the President with the smartest people possible?

Call me old-fashioned. Call me a jerk. Call me Ishmael (oops…wrong piece of writing.) Call me elitist, even. But, quite frankly, if you need directions so that you can figure out how to unbuckle your seat belt, you probably shouldn’t be anywhere near the President of the United States ON THE GROUND, let alone in a metal tube filled with jet fuel that is 35,000 feet in the sky and moving at 600 mph.

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  4. jheath said: Fly enough and people’s inability to work an airplane seatbelt will no longer surprise you.
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