The national campaign to get President Barack Obama to emote, throw crockery at oil executives and jump up and down in fury has failed. But here's a long- term solution: Let's anoint a king and queen.
Our king and queen could spend days traipsing along tarball-infested beaches, bathing oil-soaked pelicans and thrusting strong chins defiantly at BP rigs.
All that would give Obama time to devise actual cleanup policies. He might then also be able to concentrate on eliminating absurd government policies that make these disasters more likely (such as the $75 million cap on economic damages when an oil rig is responsible for a spill).
Our president is stuck with too many ceremonial duties as head of state, such as greeting ambassadors and holding tedious state dinners, that divert attention from solving problems. You can preside over America, or you can address its problems, but it's difficult to do both.
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Other countries often hand over ceremonial duties to a titular head of state with no real powers — sort of a national nanny. In Japan, the head of state is effectively the emperor. In Germany, it's the ceremonial president. In Britain, it's the queen.
Canada divides the job of head of state between Queen Elizabeth (a freebie since she's on the British payroll) and her representative, the governor general.
A figurehead head of state is a nifty foreign policy tool as well. Obama has twice had to delay his trip to Indonesia and Australia because of the press of domestic policy, but an American king and queen could spend days greeting crowds and cutting ribbons at new schools. And when they aren't traveling, our king and queen could be kept busy hosting state dinners five nights a week.
Some folks complain that it's silly to fret that Obama doesn't emote. Of course, it is. It's farcical that we have bullied our president into trash-talking on television about kicking some you know what.
But Obama knows that drama and emotion are the fuel of American politics, and that's why he's struggling to feign fury.
As Stephen Colbert observed about the oil spill: "We know if this was Reagan, he would have stripped to his skivvies, put a knife in his teeth, gone down there and punched that oil well shut!"
But let's be realistic. Most presidents just won't look that good in their skivvies. And some may accidentally swallow the knives. Thus, the need for a handsome king and queen to lead photo-ops.
Small-minded critics will offer petty objections, complaining that it is undemocratic or inequitable to have royalty. Considering that the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans own financial wealth six times greater than the financial wealth of the entire bottom 80 percent, well, we already have an aristocracy.
Critics may also protest the expense of royalty. But we could save on housing by having royals stay in the castles at Disneyland and Disney World.
In any case, think of royalty as an investment that could bring in billions of dollars in tourist revenue.
If we adopt royals who are prone to scandal, we might also give a much- needed boost to the newspaper industry. A particularly fecund couple might offer the prospect of regular royal weddings, with sales of enough commemorative kitsch to balance the federal budget.
How should we choose a king and queen? Frankly, we already have royalty: Hollywood celebrities. And they are well trained to emote and explode on demand.
Movie stars are mostly rich enough that we wouldn't have to pay them, and they can often be counted on to indulge in enough adultery to make royalty entertaining and titillating.
What? You say that this would be un-American? It's not who we are as a country? Well, rage isn't Obama either. It's not who he is any more than a monarchy is America.
So maybe we should just accept that we're stuck with a presidential system — and with a ruminative and slightly boring president who tries to solve problems rather than fulminate about them.
THE NEW YORK TIMES