On a recent visit to Denver, President Obama shook hands with a guy wearing a horse head mask. The photo of the incident is weird, and it will find its place in the ever-growing photo album of weird presidential events, like President Nixon’s meeting with Elvis and President Carter’s ill-fated encounter with the killer rabbit.
Apparently, wearing a horse head mask is some kind of bizarre internet meme that traces its roots to an inexplicable and disturbing Japanese anime character. Who knew?
Of course, it’s shocking that the Secret Service would allow any masked individual — much less a horse-masked individual — to get within handshake distance of the President, but let’s leave that aside and think about the guy wearing the mask instead. Why wear a horse mask when you are shaking the hand of the President? Even if you were just wearing it as a matter of course on your stroll around Denver when the President’s entourage happened by, wouldn’t you remove the mask before shaking the President’s hand? If you specifically brought the horse mask because you knew where the President was going to be walking — which also would mean a security lapse, by the way — then you were obviously doing it as a disrespectful razz on the President. But, why a horse mask rather than a sign? What meaningful message is sent when you wear a horse mask when greeting a politician? Are you just indicating that it’s all a joke?
As for the President . . . well, this incident didn’t turn out to do anything more than produce a weird and somewhat embarrassing photo. In the future, though, I hope he would have the judgment and good sense to avoid physical contact with mask-wearing people or other oddball types. A guy wearing a horse mask is probably capable of just about anything, and reaching out to shake his hand when there are plenty of other, normally attired individuals available seems like a bad decision.