Wrong Practice

“I’m especially excited to meet Coach Phil Jackson,” Barack Obama said, talking about himself for more than eight and one-half minutes in remarks that traditionally focus on the discipline responsible for championship organizations in American sports.  But the only word that Obama used in conjunction with the legendary coach was “Zen,” how the administration tries to convey its own way, according to The New York Times.

By all accounts, Obama copes with his political troubles with equanimity.  “Zen” is the word commonly used in the West Wing.  That’s not to say that he never loses his temper.  He has been known to snap at aides when he feels overscheduled.

Although the article didn’t cover his luxury vacations in locations away from Camp David, the presidential retreat maintained at taxpayer expense, it showed how ineffectively Obama uses time aboard Air Force One, when he “plays spades for hours, maintaining a trash-talking contest all the while.”

In the spirit of Zen’s single-minded discipline, “dualism” is a better word to describe Obama’s political philosophy, due to him thinking that the president’s work consists of enlightening Americans about similarities in campaigning and governing.  “Poetry and prose” is how Obama explains his failure.

“Zen Master” was the phrase associated with the basketball coach, placed on the same mantle inhabited by one regarded as the greatest modern exponent of the discipline, who said, “One must decide to throw absolutely everything one has into the effort.”


Barack Obama, “Remarks by The President Welcoming the NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers to the White House,” January 25, 2010.

Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, The Training of the Zen Buddhist Monk (New York: University Books, 1965).

Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (Boston: Shambhala, 2006).