President Obama played two roles during his appearance on NBC’s Running Wild With Bear Grylls: climate advocate and dad on a weekend camping trip.
The show, which aired on Thursday night, was filmed back in September during Obama’s three-day trip to Alaska that was designed to drum up some attention for the climate cause. Despite the title, though, Obama didn’t “run wild” as much as he “enjoyed a pleasant conversation and snack” with Grylls, a former Special Forces soldier-turned-celebrity survivalist. The two men talked about the environment and fatherhood—along with flatulence, belly button lint, and drinking one’s own urine (which Obama smartly declined to do)—and also drank some tea made from catkins and ate some salmon that had been previously gnawed on by an actual bear. The whole thing was quietly charming, in a geeky father in the woods-type way.
When Obama wasn’t playing the straight man to Grylls’ wild man, he was doing his best to make the climate case for protecting the environment. The show took place at the foot of Kenai Fjords National Park’s Exit Glacier, which has receded 187 feet in the last year alone, and more than a mile over the last two centuries. “I’ve two daughters, and I don’t want grandkids too soon, but eventually I hope to have some,” said Obama. “And I want to make sure that this is there for them, not just us.”
The appearance was the latest example of the White House press team getting creative with their messaging. The best example of their out-of-the-box strategy was probably Obama’s appearance on Between Two Ferns during the Obamacare rollout. But the president has also increasingly looked to late-night shows and podcasts to reach those Americans who avoid more traditional news outlets.
If you don’t like Obama and/or don’t believe what the overwhelming number of climate scientists are telling us, the whole thing was probably infuriating. With a 50-strong team of secret service and staff lurking just off camera, this was a glorified photo-op after all. But this particular climate pitch was less about convincing the deniers and skeptics, and more about urging the majority of Americans who do believe the science to do more.