Obama: 'I loved Spock'

President Obama issued a statement eulogizing Leonard Nimoy, who died on Friday. Why does the actor's portrayal of a pointy-eared science officer resonate so strongly with the president? 

Terry Virts/NASA/AP
In this photo provided by NASA, astronaut Terry Virts gives the Vulcan salute from the cupola of the International Space Station as it passes over Massachusetts. Virts tweeted the photo of his hand, split-fingered in the sign of the Vulcan salute, in a tribute to actor Leonard Nimoy on Saturday from the International Space Station. Nimoy died on Friday.

Leonard Nimoy, who passed away on Friday, will be missed by many, including the president.

On Friday, President Obama released a statement praising the late actor, who portrayed Spock on the original Star Trek series and the movies that followed.

"Long before being nerdy was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy," the statement began. It continues: 

Leonard was a lifelong lover of the arts and humanities, a supporter of the sciences, generous with his talent and his time.  And of course, Leonard was Spock.  Cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed, the center of Star Trek’s optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity’s future.
I loved Spock.
In 2007, I had the chance to meet Leonard in person.  It was only logical to greet him with the Vulcan salute, the universal sign for “Live long and prosper.”  And after 83 years on this planet – and on his visits to many others – it’s clear Leonard Nimoy did just that.  Michelle and I join his family, friends, and countless fans who miss him so dearly today.

From the start of his presidency, commentators have detected a certain Spockishness in Obama. In Feburary 2009, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote about the need for Obama to reaffirm his commitments to the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq:

"He has a Vulcan-like logic and detachment. Any mere mortal who had to tell liberals that our obligations in Iraq and Afghanistan are far from over and tell Republicans that he has a $3.6 trillion budget would probably have tears running down his face."

Last year, the Daily Banter, in an opinion piece titled "Obama’s Vulcan Foreign Policy,"  contrasted Obama's approach with that of his predecessor George W. Bush, which they characterized as emotionally reactive to world events.

The president himself gave Americans a glimpse nerd-credibility back in March of 2013. Before the looming "fiscal cliff" and the automatic sequester budget cuts were set to kick in, Obama called a spur of the moment press conference, where he said, "I can't do a Jedi mind-meld to make Republicans do the right thing."

Of course, the President  was mixing his science-fiction metaphors: The mind-meld is indeed a Vulcan ability from Star Trek, but the Jedi are from Star Wars.

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