But Friedman’s reactions frame a much narrower time span than mine. In the context of the last eight years, I had the opposite reaction, at least to the president on Leno.
Obama was cool, friendly, confident and in control. Putting aside the “special Olympics” flap, when he joked his jokes were funny, self-deprecating and not mean-spirited. Watching was unexpectedly emotional. It was joyful, reassuring.
The last eight years have been, emotionally, somewhat akin to the experience of a four or five year-old losing his parents on a crowded city sidewalk. Surrounded by strangers in a strange, potentially dangerous place, you realize that the world has gone suddenly very wrong. Your parents are no longer beside you. Your head snaps around searching for them. The panic builds as you realize you are lost.
Then you spot them down the street and a sudden wave of joy and relief washes over you. The panic subsides. Everything is going to be all right now.
I’m not suggesting Obama is a parent figure, and things may not be all right, but after eight, long years of George W. Bush, Obama's appearance on Leno evoked that kind of emotional response. Congress may still be filled with childish fools, but there’s an adult in charge again at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.