Sunday, October 07, 2012

Remember when George W. Bush was criticized for not engaging the press?

Many on the left did. Now it's time to acknowledge that our guy is just as bad. Case in point, Dana Milbank's column:
Obama pays price for ducking the questions  
Barack Obama received a valuable reminder in his drubbing at Wednesday night’s debate: He is a president, not a king. In the hours after the Republican challenger Mitt Romney embarrassed the incumbent in their first meeting, Obama loyalists expressed puzzlement that the incumbent had done badly. But Obama has only himself to blame, because he set himself up for Wednesday’s emperor-has-no-clothes moment. For the past four years, he has worked assiduously to avoid being questioned, maintaining a regal detachment from the media and other sources of dissent and skeptical inquiry.
Obama has set a modern record for refusal to be quizzed by the media, taking questions from reporters far less often than Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and even George W. Bush. Though his opponent in 2008 promised to take questions from lawmakers like the British prime minister does, Obama has shied from mixing it up with members of Congress, too.

Towson University political scientist Martha Kumar, who keeps a running tally of Obama’s media appearances, tells me he has had 19 solo news conferences in the White House as of Sept. 30. That compares to 26 for Ronald Reagan at the same point in his presidency, 59 for George H.W. Bush, and 31 for Bill Clinton. Obama had more formal news conferences than George W. Bush (13), but Bush engaged in many more informal Q&A sessions with reporters: 340 at this stage in his presidency to Obama’s 105. (Clinton had 585 at this point, the elder Bush had 309 and Reagan had 135.)

Obama hasn’t held a full-fledged news conference at the White House since March. After a Cabinet meeting in July, a reporter tried to ask him whether new gun laws were needed after the Colorado shooting — and Obama brushed off the inquiry with a joke.

In lieu of taking hard questions, Obama has opted for gauzy, soft-focus interviews with the likes of “Entertainment Tonight,” gentle appearances on late-night comedy shows, kid-glove satellite hits with regional TV stations, and joint appearances with the first lady where questions are certain to be gentle. Tough questions are rare in one-on-one interviews, because Obama has more control over the topic — and the interviewer wants to be invited back.

Engaging with Republican lawmakers is a waste of time, especially after they declared 100% opposition to Obama's agenda. But dealing with the press is another matter.

Obama has received surprisingly little criticism from the left on his remoteness from anything other than set-piece oratory.  Not that Obama would have changed, since he's demonstrated a stubbornness that will not be swayed (e.g. thinking that he can heal the partisanship and secure a Grand Bargain).


Milbank the theater critic. Who knew?

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/07/2012 10:28 AM  

Politics is theater to the press these days so they've become theater critics. See Frank Rich.

By Blogger gmoke, at 10/07/2012 8:54 PM  

He sure handed it to Mitt. The next day. When Mitt wasn't there.

Stay the course, Democrats.

By Anonymous jms, at 10/08/2012 6:37 AM  

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