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Why We Need A POTUS Who Says IDGAF

09/03/2016 5:37 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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WASHINGTON, USA - FEBRUARY 18: President Barack Obama jokes with guests after a ceremony honoring the winners of the 2015 Stanley Cup and NHL Champions the Chicago Blackhawks are honored at the White House in Washington, USA on February 18, 2016. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

If there is a defining quality to US President Barack Obama's second term, it is surely his devil-may-care attitude. He has met resistance ever since taking office, but in the past four years, the response from POTUS has often been IDGAF.

There are the obvious, front-page issues: Obamacare, the environment, gun control, Cuba, Iran. But then there are smaller initiatives that still rankle his critics. Like his embrace of new media.

In 2014, Obama sat down 'Between Two Ferns' with lovable basket-case Zach Galifianakis, to take part in a supremely awkward viral sketch that encouraged Americans to apply for healthcare online.

A year later, his bulletproof limousine pulled in to the LA garage of comedian Marc Maron to record an episode of his podcast. 'WTF' is both the podcast's name, and many people's reaction.

When he sat down for coffee -- filter coffee -- with Jerry Seinfeld on his web series, even committed Obama fanboys like me were tested.

The argument made against this kind of behaviour can be summed up in one word, usually bellowed into a talkback radio microphone: "unpresidential".

There is a view among Obama's critics that being so newfangled somehow denigrates The Oval Office. That although his very actions shape the meaning of the word 'presidential', he should stick to the old definition.

Following the Galifianakis skit, conservative commentator Bill O'Reilly noted that "Abe Lincoln wouldn't have done it" and claimed that the video would confirm Vladimir Putin's belief "that the President is a lightweight".

This week eyebrows will be raised again, with the announcement that Barack and Michelle will deliver keynote addresses at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival in Austin. To use a metaphor his critics would probably appreciate, this is the Mecca of new media.

Founded almost 30 years ago as a live music showcase, the event has gone supernova in the past decade as it has embraced technology. The interactive component of SXSW is said to be a kind-of digital Coachella. Absent from the lineup are old-media oligarchs such as O'Reilly's boss, Rupert Murdoch. Instead, the speaking schedule has boasted names such as Zuckerberg, Musk, Snowden and Assange.

Accompanied by Music and Film festival lineups that are just as influential, SXSW constitutes a cultural festival that is more diverse, more dangerous, and simply bigger than any of its kind.

Of course, everything's bigger in Texas, but in truth Austin is no giant -- around 880,000 people. For the 10 days of this year's festival, that figure is expected to swell past the 1 million mark, pumping $200 million into local coffers, much of it through price-gouging airbnb hosts (no surprise that the sharing economy is thriving around SXSW).

I have the good fortune of attending this year, and the iCal already overflows. Seminar topics range from AI to meditation. Creativity to drones. Speakers range from Mashable founder Pete Cashmore to 'The Force Awakens' Director JJ Abrams. It promises to be inspiring and overwhelming in equal parts.

Top of my list though is a talk on the opening day about 'Civic Engagement in the 21st Century', by Barack Hussein Obama. Surely there are few topics he is more qualified to speak on. And hopefully, when he does, his critics will see that the term 'presidential' is not being ruined, but it is being redefined.

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