Worst Person in the World

In a typically blasé State of the Union speech, amidst all the prosaic platitudes and banal bromides, President Obama indulged in the worst kind of anti-government ignorance with a seemingly innocent laugh line:

“The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in freshwater, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked.”

Hilarious to be sure, in that pseudo-folksy, “lol government is needlessly complicated,” Reaganesque fashion, but in between fits of laughter let us briefly examine the substance behind the sarcasm:

The Interior Department manages the freshwater habitats in which salmon reproduce and operates hatcheries to help preserve the species.

The Commerce Department regulates the offshore commercial fishing of salmon, setting catch quotas and measuring fish stocks.

Fish that are processed, such as smoked or canned salmon, are inspected and regulated either by the Food and Drug Administration or the Agriculture Department for safety.

Three departments for three different American interests: natural resource management, commercial regulation and consumer safety. It isn’t difficult to understand, if you actually want to understand it. It also isn't difficult to see that by refusing to understand it and instead cracking lame jokes about its oh-so unfathomable complexity you consent to the destructive Republican rhetoric about how government is incompetent and should “just get out of the way.”

For the supervision of certain products to fall under the purview of different agencies at different stages of development makes all the sense in the world, and for this president, a thoughtful and educated man, to lower himself to such reductive, know-nothing celebrations of base ignorance is disappointing and unacceptable. That is the stock and trade of the other side, Mr. President. Leave them to their work.

President Barack Obama, today’s Worst Person in the World.

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