July 11, 2014

Why are they calling Obama "The Bear"? "Isn't Russia associated with the Bear?"

Asks LuAnn Zieman, commenting on the post "Bears, beer and horse heads: What exactly is going on with the leader of the free world?," which identifies "Bear" as a nickname for Obama that his "top staffers" are pushing as he roams about the nation doing campaign-style photo ops.

Why "Bear"? Zieman wonders whether the idea is intentionally to associate Obama with Russia: "Maybe this is his Putin moment because, after all, Putin's been making him look bad for quite awhile."

Russia is my association too, partly because this old Ronald Reagan ad is deeply lodged in my brain:



There's a bear in the woods
....

Twitchy is irked by the "Bear" moniker.

And look, Obama talking about himself arrives at a meeting and says "The Bear is loose." Ridiculous, but before you anti-Obamites run with this, remember that Sarah Palin has long been calling herself a "Mama Grizzly" ("If you thought pit bulls were tough, you don't want to mess with mama grizzlies").


Wikipedia has a list of people who have been nicknamed "Bear," including the football coach Bear Bryant and LSD manufacturer Owsley Stanley. According to Rolling Stone, Owsley was called "Bear" "because of his prematurely hairy chest as a teenager." This is off-topic — in case you've been counting on me to stay on topic — but it's interesting and related to the previous post about the specific effects of brand-named mind-altering drugs:
From the start, Owsley felt that his state of mind while he was making acid would affect the nature of the product. "It's something that goes from being absolutely inert to so powerful that twenty-five micrograms will cause a change in your consciousness," he says. "You're concentrating a lot of mental energy on one package. And if you believe, as I did, that the universe is a creation in the mind of a being that is creating time and space, then everything is mental. So when you had something that affects the minds of thousands and thousands of people in the palm of your hand, how could you not believe that your state of mind mattered?"
Speaking of a hairy chest as a reason for the nickname "Bear," Obama quite recently joked about Vladimir Putin's bare chest: "Rudy Giuliani said Putin is what you call a leader. Mike Huckabee and Sean Hannity keep talking about his bare chest, which is kind of weird." That bare chest, is not a "bear" chest, however. It's starkly unhairy. We've seen Obama's bare chest too, and it's Putinequesly unhairy.

So why "The Bear"? It seems to have arisen in the context of Obama's need to roam free. He's said: "I'm like a caged bear... and every once in a while I break loose. And I'm feeling super loose today."

I think it's less about Obama resembling a bear than it is about the restlessness at being caged. But why would the most powerful man in the world feel caged? It would require a grandiose sense of the power he thinks he is owed. The natural state of a bear is roaming free of any cage, but the natural state of the President of the United States is caged within the constraints of constitutionally limited government. In that light, to say I feel like a bear because of this cage is to let something show that you ought to want to hide.

102 comments:

BDNYC said...

I kinda figured it was a play on his name (Barry).

MathMom said...

American college football coach and LSD manufacturer Owsley Stanley

Finally, the "bear" makes sense. Have you seen the photos of him giggling his way through a meeting about the border crisis with Rick Perry? Dude is baked, or tripping.

As to hashtags...I think #ThePrickIsLoose would be more correct.

Bill Crawford said...

Could this be the Secret Service's nickname for him? If not, I wonder what is?

Was Bill Clinton's nickname "The Bare"? (Although Teddy Roosevelt would swim nude in the Potomac, so maybe he would have been "The Bare Bear")

YoungHegelian said...

Well, since Obama's self-chosen Secret Service code name is "Renegade", he does seem to have a penchant for "butch" nicknames. If this is done in irony or in all sincerity, I have no idea.

Michael K said...

The last thing that comes to mind with Obama is a bear. A teen aged boy who never grew up, maybe.

LarsPorsena said...

Ridiculous, but before you anti-Obamites run with this, remember that Sarah Palin has long been calling herself a "Mama Grizzly"
------------------------------------


Big difference between a Griz and a black bear.

Jack Wayne said...

Just more narcissism. Move on.

The Crack Emcee said...

"Why would the most powerful man in WHITE AMERICA feel caged?"

Why, I have no idea - none what-so-ever,….

PB Reader said...

Yogi is still trying to steal our picnic baskets even after Mrs Yogi has banned all the goodies!

Henry said...

"the bear is loose"

The ridiculous part isn't the "bear", it is the "loose". Obama cuts loose by being tediously the same. "Look at me! I'm doing an extra photo op! Ha ha ha! One more pointless meet-and-greet than was originally on the schedule! I'm a wild man, I am."

khesanh0802 said...

I am guessing that the less powerful and popular he becomes the more grandiose thoughts he has about himself. I have said it before and will say it again: Obama is a very weak man. He has failed the only true test he has had in his life - the presidency.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, I think it's also psychologically due to having the Secret Service, security details, event planners etc. move constantly around the President. It can create a bubble-effect. The Popemobile might be a good visual.

Or perhaps more analogous to this particular President, when a successful pop star starts out unknown, in crappy venues generating support, then ends up in a little prison cell of pop-celebrity.

Russ said...

Does Palin actually refer to herself as "mamma grizzly" or just used it as a metaphor to describe herself w/respect to her actions. (Particularly how she responded to her family being included in the personal attacks)

Plus Palin's moniker actually has some rational reference (Alaska has grizzly bears, she's from Alaska).

Obama's seems...forced. Like the kid in middle school that wanted to be called Ace. It's just kind of out of left field: city slicker lawyer from Chicago suddenly wants to be called "the bear".

Anonymous said...

Phoning-it-in Betamax says:

Obama and Putin walk into a bar. Make sure to use a funny accent to Putin's words: funny accents are OK with Russians, not so much with Asians, Blacks or Hispanics. Maybe Nixon is the bartender. Already bored.

Bob Boyd said...

Boo Boo runs wild.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_phbjCjzzE

Carter Wood said...

Ursus minor

Jane the Actuary said...

Sorry, but I just don't think Obama is "caged" to begin with, in the way he wants us to think, isolated in the White House, given the amount of time he spends golfing, hanging out with celebrities, and recreating in various ways.

Is a "caged bear" really an expression, anyway? I think of "caged bird" but maybe that's because of the dominance of the Maya Angelou book in popular culture.

Which makes "bear" feel all the more artificial.

madAsHell said...

How much more of Obama can we bear?

traditionalguy said...

Bears roam around seeking whom they may devour. After catching the prey and flashing a toothy victory smile, the bear enjoys hearing the screams as he slowly eats them alive.

So Obama reminds folks of a Bear at work.

Anonymous said...

Bear - A husky, large gay man with a lot of body hair.

Obama waxes so I can't speak to the third item.

He's not husky and while tall he really doesn't come across as large.

He is a man. I sense at least one Y chromosome.

There is the strange relationship with Reggie Love.

At first glance he only meets one, maybe one and a half of the quantifiers so he definitely is not a bear. The real question is does he count as a queen? I've heard he has a fondness for show tunes.

Todd said...

But why would the most powerful man in the world feel caged?

Because he never really wanted the job. He loved the idea of the job but not the job. He found out being President is work and Obama doesn't do "work". He organizes and attends meetings where he gets to vote "present" and has discussions and stuff like that.

holdfast said...

I was always taught that talking about onesself in the third person is the surest indication of a complete douchebag.

Kevin said...

Well, in Palins case, at least she lives in a place where there are actually REAL grizzly bears.

What is Obama's excuse...?

I think he's inflating himself by referring to himself as a bear.

It would be far more accurate if he referred to himself as a duplicitous b*****d, but it doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

From an earlier post:

Unknown said...
Every time I hear about the bear, I wonder if it poops in the woods.

#BearPoopsintheWood

Every time I Hera about the bear, I think of BooBoo.

#HeyBooBoo

Lyle said...

Althouse,

You're not an anti-Obamaite right now?

mccullough said...

He's overbearing

Birkel said...

If only the Supreme Court would let "the bear" run free we could get our full collectivism on.

How many Leftists are ready to go Full Fascist for "the bear"?

Never forget who voted for this miserable failure.

TreeJoe said...

Palin had the very natural excuse of living in Alaska her entire life, where Grizzly Bears are part of the culture.

Mark O said...

Too scrawny. Although, Ursus horribilis has a nice ring.

lemondog said...

Bears hibernate.

Hibernation: a dormant sleep-like state.

cold pizza said...

Shouldn't that be spelled "bare?" As in, y'know, "no clothes?" Just askin'. -CP

TreeJoe said...

I think how you refer to yourself tells alot about how you want to see yourself. And Obama has been referring to himself as a bear for years now - so this isn't just a one-day thing.

A bear is a symbol of strength and ruggedness. It's also a charge forward mentality - usually in slumber or calm, but known for decisive and fast action. Usually violent action at that.

It is not usually associated with raw intelligence, wisdom, wily, etc.

When I compare the bear iconology to Obama's cultivated image, and how he describes himself most of the time, I feel strong dissonance.

It just doesn't fit. At all. And it makes me feel like Obama doesn't know how he looks to others and doesn't have a consistent self-image as a man.

Anonymous said...

Don't mess with the Bear, young man. You'll get the claws.

Mark said...

Obama reminds me of a bear in pretty much the same way as a chihuahua reminds me of a rottweiler.

tim maguire said...

A Mama Grizzly

The Bear

The importance of articles, it comes up from time to time.

Palin was identifying herself with a group, mama grizzlies were a kind of rougher tougher soccer mom, for a while. Obama is just a narcissist.

Mr. Colby said...


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._J._and_the_Bear

Big Mike said...

Sarah Palin is more masculine than Barack Obama.

jaed said...

"Caged" seems strange. He is not isolated in the WH at all - he's constantly going out to burger joints and so forth, Chipotle last week, not to mention the endless California fundraisers and the vacations and weekends at tourist spots. And the golf.

He does have Secret Service with him, but they don't seem to be keeping him from going out when he wants to.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Some days you get the bear. Some days the bear gets you.

In all seriousness, I can't think of many things less like a bear than Barack Obama.

pm317 said...

Bears performing 'tricks' are used for begging money on the street in some third world countries. May be Obama is that kind of a bear.

Ann Althouse said...

"I kinda figured it was a play on his name (Barry)."

Where I come from "Barry" isn't pronounced like "Berry." (And "bury" is said differently from either of those.)

pm317 said...

He does not know what to do with his life right now.

FleetUSA said...

Brown Bears Barrack? But really too skinny to be a respectable bear.

p.s. In French "baraque" is a form of shanty - dilapidated building.

Ann Althouse said...

"Is a "caged bear" really an expression, anyway?"

It made me think of zoos where bears pace or rock back and forth in a way that makes human observers feel that captivity has made them crazy.

But that's one more reason not to liken yourself to a bear.

Tari said...

"I can't think of many things less like a bear than Barack Obama."

Me either. He's nowhere near masculine enough for me to associate him with a predatory animal. He's more of an herbivore. The "wandering giraffe" sounds much better than "bear on the loose."

MathMom said...

Sarah Palin could open a can of whupass on Barry and leave him sniveling in a corner.

She could probably also beat him at basketball. In high heels.

Chef Mojo said...

With all the golf he's put under his belt these last 5 years, maybe he sees himself as Jack Nicklaus.

St. George said...

Bear...as in Bear Market

Larry J said...

Big Mike said...
Sarah Palin is more masculine than Barack Obama.


While true, that's a pretty low bar. She's also more feminine than Michelle, which is also a pretty low bar.

Skeptical Voter said...

Back in my Viet Nam era Army basic training days a favorite Drill Instructor expression was "Does a bear shit in the woods?"

Obama's vision of where he can do that is much broader: 1.On any and all GOP legislators; 2. All over the rest of the country; and 3. On the Constitution.

The man is untrammeled--and absolutely unhousebroken. As for whether he's "butch" enough to call himself the "Bear" or the "Renegade" take a look at any photo of the doofus and ask yourself, "Are you going to believe Obama, or are you going to believe your own lying eyes?"

I'll go with my eyeball's conclusion. Little Miss Muffett might fit him.

BDNYC said...

I believe the expression is "caged lion." In particular, pacing like one.

Anonymous said...

The Bear of Very Little Brain is not loose, but will be once someone figures out how to get the hunny pot off his nose.

LarryK said...

The Bearly Competent is Loose

Tell me something I didn't know

Unknown said...

bear poops in the woods, and the bear is loose...

don't want to think about it.

wendybar said...

Peter Pan would be a better moniker for the boy king. Either that or TUT!!!

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

He might be able to make the name work if he adds in what, in fact, he existentially is - bad news.

Thus "The Bear of Bad News"

Thanks. I'm here all week. Try the veal.

Paul said...

The man is delusional. How sick is a nation that elects such a weak, conceited, fool to its highest office? Twice!

paminwi said...

Todd at 9:49am. I TOTALLY agree!


What a useless man he is.

David said...

The Faulkner estate is lawyering up.

Chuck said...

Dear Professor Althouse;

My own theory is that the self-applied nickname is based on the expression "poking the bear." As in, "Certain aspects of today's Republican Party, quite simply, thrive on poking the bear."

That quote is drawn from an online WaPo column by one Aaron Blake, who blogs at The Fix, WaPo's online political blog.

It is a repetitive theme with Blake, as seen here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/07/09/why-impeach-obama-is-different-than-impeach-bush/

and here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/11/13/are-tea-party-groups-more-interested-in-purity-or-poking-the-bear/

Incidentally, that first link, to a post by Blake about whether the current "impeachment" talk is anything like the "impeach Bush" talk of eight years ago, is one of the most unconvincing editorial columns I have ever read. Blake tries to suggest that "impeach Obama" is a lot more sinister and self-defeating for Republicans than "impeach Bush" was for Democrats. But unlike the "impeach Obama" trashtalk by mere controversialists like Sarah Palin, the "impeach Bush" move was introduced as a resolution in the House, led by John Conyers -- the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee where articles of impeachment would likely originate -- and supported by pretty much the entire Congressional Black Caucus, with a total of 38 co-sponsors in the House. Including, notably, Tammy Baldwin.

FullMoon said...

Bear might be one of those "coded messages", like teabaggers. .

URBAN DICTIONARY
The most common definition of a "bear" is a man who is hairy, has facial hair, and a cuddly body. However, the word "Bear" means many things to different people, even within the bear movement. Many men who do not have one or all of these characteristics define themselves as bears, making the term a very loose one. Suffice it to say, "bear" is often defined as more of an attitude than anything else - a sense of comfort with our natural masculinity and bodies that is not slavish to the vogues of male attractiveness that is so common in gay circles and the culture at large.

rhhardin said...

The bear with very little brain.

dbp said...

Obama is a master of what psychologists refer to as "projection". His own bad-faith causes him to assume anyone who opposes him does so in bad faith too. We see this anytime he describes his opposition--He makes clear his belief that they never have a legitimate reason for opposing his plan.

He imagines himself as a bear, because deep down inside that is what he desires. He likes bears, wants to be with a bear and so imagines himself as a bear. I do not know if bears like bears, maybe they like effeminate men such as Obama.

Lori said...

I always think of a circus bear being on the loose. Real bears are already free.

He gets tired of doing Valerie's tricks and goes out and bothers other people sometimes.

PackerBronco said...

We need an answer to the age-old question:

"If a bear sh**s in the woods on the Constitution, does it make a noise?"

chillblaine said...

Beware of Constitutional Law Scholars bearing gifts.

richard mcenroe said...

They picked "the Bear" because "the Brony" tested poorly.

Sofa King said...

The Bears still suck.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTu-mUFKb6s

Charlie said...

#thedorkisloose.

surfed said...

If Obama is the "Bear" then Boehner is the mastiff in an Elizabethan bait the bear scenario.

sydney said...

More like a cub.

Hyphenated American said...

I don't think see Obama as a bear. What comes to mind is "Ace", as in, "Ace-hole".

Nonapod said...

Ace linked an interesting article by Peter Wehner that has just about the best psychological analysis of Obama. This stood out in particular:

The president is a man who has a grandiose sense of himself, a very strong sense of entitlement, and is, even for a politician, unusually prickly and self-pitying. He is blind to the damage he’s doing and the failures he’s amassed. His self-conception–pragmatic, empirical, non-ideological, self-reflective, willing to listen to and work with others, intellectually honest, competent at governing–is at odds with reality. Mr. Obama is constantly projecting his own weaknesses onto his political opponents. There are never any honest differences with Obama; he is always impugning the motives of his critics–they put “party ahead of country”–while presenting his own motives as being as pure as the new-driven snow. And whatever goes wrong on his watch is always the result of someone or something else. There’s a kind of impressive consistency to Obama’s blame game. It never rests, and it applies to every conceivable circumstance.

EMD said...

"Bear with me."

SMGalbraith said...

I've never been an Obama hater but he can really be kind of a jerk, can't he?

Remove the political aspects if you can and just look at him as a person.

He's kind of obnoxious.

Anonymous said...

The thing about Obama is, his feminine white half has enslaved his masculine black half.

President Obama is the perfect argument against single parenthood or same sex parenthood. He is a sissy. And when the leader of the free world is a sissy, everyone suffers for it.

And the dominance of his feminine white half explains the bear. Some women, like our President, want to be men but realize they are weak. So they talk about themselves like they are strong. This is what a lot of feminists do. Constantly telling us how strong they are as they force us to lower standards so they can compete with men.

Bill Clinton was the first black President but we couldn't see it because the color of his skin kept getting in the way.

Barack Obama is our first female president but we can't see it because the color of his skin keeps getting in our way.

Fernandinande said...

The age-old question:

Does a bear shit on the country?

MayBee said...

I think it's an attempt to project masculinity.


The really interesting thing is his aides (and the press that follows along) trying to get the American people to cheer on the idea of the President "breaking free" of his job.
Maybe it's a way to get us to pay for all the interesting Italian meals and golf outings with Alonzo Mourning. We are participating in the fun by paying for Obama to be a little bit naughty. Is that the sense they want to create?
Or do they want us to try to imagine it has been his lack of breaking free that has kept him from doing his job well?

But don't the American people like hard workers? We didn't celebrate Steve Jobs or Oprah because it seemed like they couldn't wait to stop doing their jobs.

averagejoe said...

"The Bear" just does not fit this sissy. I think the Peter Pan references are more apt, although I'd say he's closer to Tinkerbell then Peter. #TheFairyIsLoose can be the hashtag for his followers who already chant: I do believe! I do believe! I do believe!

retired said...

The weasel is a better fit

The Crack Emcee said...

Wow!

Seventy one comments and NO ONE TOOK THE BAIT!

That's good, white people, because that's evidence those who outnumber blacks, 6 to 1, DON'T have to answer every fool thing we say with nonsense - in other words:

IT'S NOT A PERMANENT AFFLICTION!!!!

Congratulations, white people, really:

I was pulling for you all along.

Now, I'ma contact Kanye and tell him I win the bet,...

Mitch H. said...

Maybe it was originally in reference to a trained dancing bear? Gets tired of doing tricks for his tamers, breaks his chain, and wanders off to eat some popcorn out of a kiosk or maybe a few Girl Scouts.

Seems unlikely, that sort of self-identification as a brute is unusual in a clinical narcissist like Obama. It is instructive that we've only started hearing this stupid damn trope in the last month or so - somebody probably focus-tested the hell out of it and fed it to their social-media people with eyedroppers.

Nichevo said...

He wishes he was a bear! More like a rabbit.

Putin and Obama are in the woods together, shitting peacefully side by side. Putin asks Obama, Does shut ever stick to you?

Obama smirks, Of course not.

So Putin wipes his ass with Obama.

Original Mike said...

Bear? I'm thinking more like skunk.

Paco Wové said...

I guess "The Boss" sort of fizzled out, so it's time to try another B-word.

R. Chatt said...

His grandmother called him Bar, pronounced bear. Short for Barry with a Midwest accent. He called her "Toot," short for the Hawaiian word for grandmother, tutu.

AllenS said...

Remember that photo of Barack and the problem he had with the umbrella at the gate with Michelle?

I think I said "Barry Poppins".

Now, it's "Beary Poppins."


Connie said...

Every time a character tries to give themselves a nickname, (T-Bone!; Rocket Man), the results didn't turn out as expected. More proof this presidency is really a sitcom.

Anonymous said...

Feel free to call me 'Ace' or 'Lobo.'

MathMom said...

Allen S -

"Beary Poppins".

Priceless. May I steal this?

Original Mike said...

Hi, Allen!

Paul said...

Bear?

hahahaha.... Obama, a bear?

Maybe a stuffed one.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Did somebody say Bear?

HoodlumDoodlum said...

I dunno, something about giving yourself a nickname...

Plus, isn't calling someone an animal a classic Othering tactic? Psychology, how does it work?

John said...

I think Obie wanted to be called T-Bone but the name was taken.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXTlAJrgGEY

Obie really is more of a Koko (Per my old Jamaican gammie)

Certainly no bear.

John Henry

D.E. Cloutier said...

Dan Pfeiffer, Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor, said on the White House Blog:

"Going all the way back to the early days of the campaign, whenever President Obama shook off his schedule and busted out of the bubble, we would say 'the Bear is loose.'

"Lately, the Bear has been loose a lot, and this week will be no different. The President is hitting the road on a three-day swing to Colorado and Texas, where he will meet with Americans who’ve written him letters and whose stories – their challenges and successes – resonate with folks from across the country."

The item was posted on July 8 at 6 AM EDT.

Link (if you want to read more):

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/07/07/denver-to-austin-bear-loose-again

ByondPolitics said...

Palin is from Alaska. Mama Grizzly makes sense.

BO is from Chicago & is a sports fan. Bear makes perfect sense.

Paco Wové said...

Maybe we can try calling him "Purple Haze" next.

Seeing Red said...

If only a gutsy political cartoonist would draw a 3-ring circus, 1 ringmaster Putin, 1 the face of ISIS, and 1 the face of the Chicoms with Barry dressed as a performing circus bear riding a tricycle and the crowd laughing & pointing.

gk1 said...

Only beltway pussies are stupid enough to push this crap. Just put up clips of obama throwing any sort of ball on a jumbotron in a stadium and watch the scorn shower down. Any guy who has to remind anyone what to call them is a putz.

Zach said...

I just don't see how a skinny person is supposed to be a bear. Bears aren't skinny. Is he supposed to have just woken up from hibernation? Skinny bears are more dangerous than fat ones, of course, because they're more desperate -- Timothy Treadwell was killed by a skinny bear desperate to build up fat reserves for the winter. Is that the metaphor we're working with?

Putin I could buy as a bear. He's physically powerful, a little funny looking, and gives off the strong impression that he doesn't care what people think about him.

Maybe Obama could be a bird? He has a very slight build, and he tends to preen. He also kind of flutters around without sticking to one thing for very long.

When I compare the bear iconology to Obama's cultivated image, and how he describes himself most of the time, I feel strong dissonance.

It just doesn't fit. At all. And it makes me feel like Obama doesn't know how he looks to others and doesn't have a consistent self-image as a man.


This kind of bothers me, too. There's nothing wrong with being a skinny man with a slight build and slightly effeminate mannerisms. But the constant He-Man messaging -- Obama is a sports nut! He works out constantly! He plays pickup basketball games with college and pro players, and they get physical! -- is just too much. Either he's lying to us, or he's lying to himself.

Fen said...

"'Any man who must say 'I am the king' is no true king" - Tywin Lannister

Its the same with Obama. His staff wants to push "the Bear!" meme because they know he has no gravitas. World leaders think he's a joke.