During the President's exchange Thursday with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show, the line that received the most play was Obama's mention of American Idol's Simon Cowell. (Except for his unfortunate comparison of his bowling score of 129 on the White House bowling lane as "like Special Olympics, or something.")
That joke, I think, had to have been rehearsed -- composed by a speech writer and memorized by the president/client.
It's a safe bet that Obama has never watched American Idol and might have only the haziest idea of what it is.
When I was writing a profile of Michelle Obama for Chicago magazine, people I interviewed said time and again that Obama hates television.
He doesn't understand why his wife likes it so much, and always has -- and from childhood (she memorized the scripts of The Brady Bunch and The Dick Van Dyke Show) to today (Sex in the City, The Sopranos, and HGTV), she admits to finding television enormously relaxing.
Her husband, on the other hand, likes to watch sports, but beyond that believes that most TV is a waste of time and prefers that his daughters watch none of it. He is far more strict on this matter than his wife. As Marian Robinson told People magazine in admitting that she sometimes lets the girls watch more than the hour of television their parents allow, "But don't tell him because he cannot stand TV watching."
One person I interviewed for my piece said that Obama would have preferred to have no TV at home in Chicago. Given the guilt he felt for allowing his political career to take him so often away from home, he knew that was an argument he could never wage, much less win.