Seventy-four years ago, a naval battle off this remote spit of land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean changed the course of World War II. Last week, President Obama flew here to swim with Hawaiian monk seals and draw attention to a quieter war — one he has waged against rising seas, freakish storms, deadly droughts and other symptoms of a planet choking on its own fumes.I'm imagining the writers — Julie Hirshfeld Davis, Mark Landler, and Coral Davenport — believed they'd constructed a perfectly beautiful and not at all risible sentence. And, by the way, I love the name Coral Davenport, especially in the presence of an atoll...
... to the point where I'm almost ready to forgive. But I can't. The Hawaiian monk seals are just too much. "President Obama flew here to swim with Hawaiian monk seals...." Obama didn't flap his own personal wings. He flew in an immense fossil-fuel-guzzling jet plane. Just for a backdrop and another vacation — a luxury jaunt of a kind none of us even dreams of. You may go to Florida and swim dolphins, you peasant, but he went to Midway and swam with Hawaiian monk seals.
Did he literally swim with them? These are endangered animals, not tourist toys. But perhaps if only Obama swims with them, it's okay. It's an honor for them, swimming with the President of the United States. Maybe he just went swimming in what is known to be the endangered mammals' habitat —
if you read on you'll see that he was expanding the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument — and the NYT writers threw the seals into their purple-prose sentence to warm things up for readers who love animals. We love those animals. Aw. Seals. And these are very special seals. Obama seals.
How can Obama expect to convince us that we must cut back carbon emissions — make real sacrifices in our little lives — when he emits like mad even when he's trying to alarm us about climate change? It's not merely hypocrisy, it's insanity. How can you expect us to believe when you make a vivid, extravagant show that you yourself do not believe?
But maybe you didn't notice the carbon emissions problem with that sentence because you were distracted by the comparison between Obama's "war" and the Battle of Midway.