It has been observed that our elected leaders spend so much time inside the Washington Beltway that they’ve lost touch with the people they represent. House Speaker Paul Ryan reinforced the notion again this week.
The occasion was the swearing-in of House members to start the new term, in this case Rep. Roger Marshall of Kansas. As Marshall and his family posed for a picture with Ryan, 17-year-old Cal Marshall struck a dab pose.
For those who don’t know (and that includes Ryan and the kid’s father), the dab is a showboat move invented by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton a couple of years ago to celebrate touchdowns. The dabber tucks his head into the crook of the elbow, appearing to sneeze as he holds his other arm straight down.
Ryan thought Cal was sneezing when he saw the pose. “You all right?” he asked. “Were you going to sneeze. Is that it.” Cal’s clueless father assured photographers his son was sneezing.
But that didn’t fool viewers on C-SPAN, who started tweeting about the encounter as a video clip quickly circulated on social media. Ryan was still perplexed hours later: “Just finished swearing in photos. Nearly 300 members. Countless kids. Still don’t get what dabbing is, though.”
While Ryan has a well-deserved reputation as a square and a wonk, he’s hardly unique when it comes to officials who have shown they’re out of touch with the people they represent. Several years ago, it was popular to ask people appearing at nomination hearing the price of a quart of milk–few if any knew the correct answer. (I’ll bet most of the congressmen and senators who asked the question got the answer from their wives.)
My favorite example is George H.W. Bush when he was running for reelection in 1992. His campaign handlers setup a photo-op for him at a supermarket, where Bush apparently saw a product scanner for the first time in his life. As the TV cameras rolled, Bush peppered store employees with questions about how the gadget worked–he was clearly impressed.
It was also obvious that he hadn’t been in a grocery store for decades. Maybe that’s one of the reasons he served just one term.