09 February 2009

Worth a note

Steve Benen points out the end of the Bush "Bubble Boy" staged "Town Halls":

At an event in Elkhart, Indiana, today, an audience member asked President Obama, "You have come to our county and asked us to trust you, but those that you have appointed to your cabinet are not trustworthy and cannot handle their own budget and tax issues. I'm one of those who thinks you need to have a beer with Sean Hannity, so tell me why, from my side..."

As my friend Alex Koppelman noted, when the questioner elicited boos, the president intervened, silenced the crowd, and said the woman raised a legitimate question. After addressing the substance, Obama joked:

"Now, with respect to Sean Hannity, I didn't know that he had invited me for a beer. But I will take that under advisement. Generally, his opinion of me does not seem to be very high. But, uh, but I'm always good for a beer."

Now, it's always good when a public official can defuse tension with a little humor, and I'm very glad Obama defended the woman's right to ask a confrontational question. But reading about this, another angle comes to mind: since when can critics of the president attend public events and ask unscreened questions?

Apparently, as of about 20 days ago.

You can like or dislike his policies, disagree with his governing philosophy, but it's damn refreshing to have a president who is unafraid to allow someone who disagrees with him to ask a question at a public forum, and who has the quickness of wit to respond with humor and grace. I hope it lasts.

24 comments:

  1. NOT a fan of this President...but [having established that fact] you are going out on a limb of logic here. On what grounds do you affirm that the question/questioner was spontaneous and un-vetted?? I'm just sayin'~~~Pattie, RN

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  2. I find this post excessively hilarious considering the ways that Obama has given his CIA nominee a personal bodyguard to strong-arm reporters who ask any serious questions.

    Read from politico here. I guess silencing dissent is the first step to an iron-fisted reign as president, and Obama is off to a good start in that regard.

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  3. She's asking a legitimate question, but I'm not going to answer it. I will instead blow it off with a joke.

    I don't get why this is "graceful" and whatnot.

    Unless he did answer it, but neither of your links indicated that he did.

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  4. Nurse K and her fellow haters seem to be missing the point of this post entirely, which was that a citizen was allowed to attend and ask a question at a presidential news conference without having to be a nonquestioning believer and signing a loyalty oath as a prerequisite. Heck, simply having a presidential news conference is a huge change from the past 8 yrs.

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  5. I guess the Obama haters aren't prepared to give him credit for admitting he screwed up with Daschle, either, right?

    Something Bush somehow wasn't man enough to do his entire tenure in any real and meaningful way.

    As far as Obama answering her question seriously? How so? It was clearly meant as only harassment and instigation. What obligation does he have to retort with a serious response?

    If I asked you why you're dumb enough to buy into Republican ideology, and tell you that you just need to sit down with Paul Krugman and have a latte, does that mean anything short of you addressing that proposition in a serious manner is something that points to your lack of dignity?

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  6. I mean, this is where we are. As I read Shadowfax's entry, I thought, "Yeah, I mean, this is purely virtuous, surely the right wingers will agree that it is noble to take questions from the other side."

    But, I'm guilty of naive optimism again. I read the other day that the New Deal didn't end the Great Depression.

    You cannot have a serious conversation with conservatives today. That doesn't mean the majority has to listen to the nut jobs on the left, or pander to them. But, the idea that you can work with people who think this woman was a plant, or who ignore the fact that you wrote "after addressing the substance of her question" or who believe the mountain of lies pumped over hate radio is ridiculous. It can't be done.

    And that really is the most tragic result of the Bush revolution.

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  7. Lyle, it wasn't just harassment and instigation. It was a fair question, and it's one that I would like answered too (and I voted for the guy).

    Nurse K, I did a little googling, and while I didn't find a transcript, I did find an AP article which reported that he admitted that their appointment was a mistake. Okay, fair enough, it's not like I expect him to make no mistakes. What I do expect is for him to acknowledge and learn from those mistakes -- he's done the former, and we're still waiting on the latter. But I'm optimistic.

    As I've said before, after the past thirty years it's a little difficult to find somebody who's both experienced and not at least a little bit corrupt. Expect improvement; don't expect miracles.

    But yeah, I'm in total agreement about the right-wingers completely missing the point of the post. That's kinda sad.

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  8. I completely agree with Shadowfax -- it is certainly a welcome change to see real questions being posed at Obama's town hall meetings, instead of the well-choreographed answer-sessions of the Bush administration.

    One of the hallmarks of the Bush administration was being extremely dismissive to people who didn't agree with them (see Karl Rove's comments on the Valerie Plaine CIA leak), and it is wonderful to finally have a president that at least *listens* to opposing viewpoints.

    Go Obama! Woohoo!

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  9. Yeah, I like that he seems like the kid of guy I might hang out with. He talks more like me and make the sort of jokes I might make than any other president ever has. Probably because he is only 46 and more with the current programme than the old guard. It doesn't matter what he said about the hate-spewing question, it is the fact that he did not just wink and the secret service and have her whisked away.

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  10. Well, at least she didn't throw a shoe at him.

    I've been a republican all my life, but Bush was the worst president since possibly Harding....although I'm not sure on that one. This new era style republicanism is anathema to me. I am more of a Teddy Roosevelt, Lincolnesque study.

    Funny thing is, Clinton was the most republican president we've had in the past 40 years.

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  11. I'm with Shadowfax, dm, & Jeff on this one.

    Slight change of topic now -- regarding the comment from physasst -- Physasst, I'm not sure in what sense you mean that Clinton was Republican. (It isn't that I disagree, only that I'm not sure I follow you.)

    I do think NAFTA and welfare reform lost votes for the Democrats in 1996. Those voters didn't go to Dole; they went to Nader. Democrats blew them off that time. Having persuaded themselves they didn't consider persuading the lost voters.

    With Lieberman on the ticket in 2000, it seems to me like things didn't look any better to people who apparently were trying to tell the Democrats even back in 1996 they didn't like Clinton's economic policies. But the Democrats didn't shift to the economic left. Instead they scolded Nader voters as if Democrats were entitled to those votes ("A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush," etc.) I suppose this helped Dems feel better about their (our) own views. But it was an ineffective way to win voters back.

    Better would have been this: "How can I persuade you to cast your vote for my candidate?"

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  12. Nurse K and her fellow haters seem to be missing the point of this post entirely, which was that a citizen was allowed to attend and ask a question at a presidential news conference without having to be a nonquestioning believer and signing a loyalty oath as a prerequisite.

    He only allowed this type of question once. I'm still looking for a trend. And he didn't answer the question.

    Not that I liked Bush either, especially after the Big Iraq Uranium Lie.

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  13. Gingerale:
    I think physasst's point is that Clinton was in reality a fiscal conservative compared with recent republicans. Bush Jr has spent money like a drunken sailor and turned a budget surplus into a huge budget deficit. Physasst meant "republican" in the traditional sense of the word (frankly I thnk he is right). My hope is that the thoughtful republicans in the mold of Dole, Hatch, and McCain (before the nomination) take back control of the party from the neocon nutballs.

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  14. Comment: I completely agree with Shadowfax -- it is certainly a welcome change to see real questions being posed at Obama's town hall meetings, instead of the well-choreographed answer-sessions of the Bush administration.

    This is nice and all, but this is not as big of a concern to me as this is: Did anyone bother to note what Obama did during last night's PRESS CONFERENCE, you know, the opportunity for the UNBIASED media to ask the REALLY hard questions? Mr. President had a scripted sheet of people to call on, with their questions already identified. He called on them in the order listed on the page, and was prepared in advance for what they were going to say - he never deviated from his list and when he reached them all, it was over. That is why he appeared more polished than he usually does when speaking extemporaneously.

    I think it is great for a "regular guy" to be able to ask questions our leaders in an uninhibited manner - but shouldn't the "professionals" in the Press want to actually try and get the real news story, and not print a bunch of pre-arranged q&a sessions?? Talk about managing the media to your benefit. But of course, there is no way the liberal media can allow Obama to fail, so the days of tough questions are over, at least for the next four years.

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  15. J-Ro,

    You're half right. Obama, as Bush and Clinton before him, did have a list of which reporters to call on and in which order. That's standard procedure, and is a traditional way in which the white house rewards friendly journalists (like male hooker Jeff Gannon) and punishes unfriendly journalists. Note that Obama called on HuffPo blogger San Stein - Bush wouldn't even credential the Huffington Post for pressers.

    But in one thing you are very very wrong. He did not have the questions in advance. (A-rod? Come on Wash Post, you used to be a real media outlet!) He was polished in his answers because he's a really smart guy and a good speaker. But he most certainly did *not* have the questions in advance.

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  16. And here, my Dear Shadowfax, you are wrong. Bush was not allowed to pre-select his questioners - the media would not permit it.

    From the WSJ: Presidents are free to conduct press conferences however they like, but the decision to preselect questioners is an odd one, especially for a White House famously pledged to openness. We doubt that President Bush, who was notorious for being parsimonious with follow-ups, would have gotten away with prescreening his interlocutors. Mr. Obama can more than handle his own, so our guess is that this is an attempt to discipline reporters who aren't White House favorites.

    That's why all the hand waving during Bush's pressers.

    Not only did Obama pre-screen the questioners, but the absence of tough questions and the obvious lack of follow-up certainly would make it easy for someone to believe the whole thing was scripted as hell. Do a google search on "Obama press conference questions in advance" and see the tons of hits you get from skeptics like myself. The economy is going to hell, the "stimulus" package is loaded with waste and fraud, and is paid for with dollar amounts followed by more zeros than this country has ever seen in one place at one time - and Obama gets a question about A-Rod and steroids?? I am surprised he wasn't asked about his front runner on American Idol.

    Then again, I guess we had to ask at least ONE question that will be understood by a good percentage of the people that voted for him. All the economic stuff is not a concern for those folks, since so few of them pay taxes, have insurance, have a job, or have a sense of personal responsibility. Obama is there now, he is "the One" and it is allllllllll gonna be better now...

    So in light of that, what's a few pre-scripted pressers? Huff Po gets to ask a question and the Wall Street Journal doesn't... yeah, that's refreshing, all right, and since it is the leading financial paper in this country, excluding the WSJ during a presser purporting to be about the economic crisis is a BRILLIANT move... Yes, they might disagree with him - but I thought he was all about transparency and openness?

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  17. J-ro,

    Bush had a chart and he knew who was sitting where and he chose who to call on -- there's no veto for that prerogative in the press room. The press "wouldn't permit" it? Come on! We crazy lefties just spent eight years watching these pressers, and it's entirely clear that W (when he deigned to indulge the fourth estate) had his own list of reporters to call on.

    Which changes nothing -- as I said, Obama had his list of who to ask, but he was not briefed on the questions in advance.

    And the WSJ, well, their financial news is always reliable, but their political coverage and op-ed page is the print equivalent of Faux News, only less attached to reality, and it's exactly zero surprise that they did not make "the list."

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  18. A seating chart is one thing - but Obama had a list of who he was going to call in and in what order. He stumbled twice when two names on his list were not where they were supposed to be. Bush may have known who to call on and who not to call on, but considering that 85% (if not more) of the leftist media was gunning for him, his choices were considerably less friendly than those facing Obama.

    The WSJ is conservative, and the NYT is liberal - accepted. But Bush never refused to take a question from the NYT, because like it or not, it is the paper of record in this country and he recognized its place. To imply that some left wing internet screed like HuffPo is of more importance to the national economic debate than a publication of the caliber of the WSJ is ludicrous.

    Again, though, the difference is target audience. The odds of finding some hairy armpitted, dreadlocked alternative lifestyle living liberal arts major/Obama voter reading the WSJ are about as good as getting me to watch Rock of Love. But with the advent of wireless internet (thanks, Mr. Gore!) even hippies and potheads can read the propaganda spewed out by the likes of HuffPo and Kos. Obama is no fool - he is dumbing down the message to keep the interest of the uwashed masses who elected him to be their Savior. And to keep their interest, it has to be in color, with a bitching soundtrack, in little three to five minute sound bites full of celebrity name dropping and pop culture references. While they stare all "Oh Look! Pretty Pretty Colors! It's Miley!" he and his minions in Congress are going to quietly tax and spend this nation into oblivion.

    But hey, it's okay!! We all know his opinion on A-Rod!!!

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  19. I see this civil discussion as progressing elsewere - so I linked this to my own blog - with the caveat that i will disable it it you would prefer. I am at pushybroad.blogspot.com should you care to discuss this any more?

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  20. J-Ro,

    Thanks for the link and the kind words, and thanks for having the restraint to know how to avert a shouting match. I skill I could use, I'd say.

    I'll leave it with this, which I happened to stumble upon randomly this morning: an article in which Bush media dudes Ari Fleischer and Dan Bartlett discuss how they were able to script George Bush's press conferences. Granted, it leaves open the question of whether Obama had the questions in advance, but does make clear that the preselection of reporters is nothing new.

    Cheers,

    SF

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  21. "even hippies and potheads can read the propaganda spewed out by the likes of HuffPo and Kos. Obama is no fool - he is dumbing down the message to keep the interest of the uwashed masses who elected him to be their Savior. And to keep their interest, it has to be in color, with a bitching soundtrack, in little three to five minute sound bites full of celebrity name dropping and pop culture references. While they stare all "Oh Look! Pretty Pretty Colors! It's Miley!" he and his minions in Congress are going to quietly tax and spend this nation into oblivion."

    So J-Ro This is your example of "taking the high road"? More like taking the hypocritical road. Try practicing what you preach.

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  22. To Anon...

    I am not sure you understand the definition of hypocritical.

    In my blog post, about Taking the High Road, I wrote:

    If I were to follow the liberal playcard from the last eight years, this is the moment when I start getting out the bumper stickers and writing the letters and bashing the President at every opportunity. The bitterness and hatred and vitriol would be pouring forth, and I would be wishing with every fiber of my being that he would fail, in an EPIC fashion.

    If I were a hypocrite, as you alledge, my comment to Shadow's post would have been a direct, bitter, nasty attack on the Pres, his character, his morality, etc. But I never directly bashed Pres Obama. Bashing the fawning media, bashing the giddy sheeple that blindly follow him - that's another story.

    But thanks for checking out my blog! I am new at this stuff and I will take any criticism - even from folks too insecure to use a real name rather than Anon...

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  23. J-Ro:
    Oh come now. Your lines drip of sarcasm and lack of respect for Obama and his supporters and you know it. I am sorry but that is hypocritical. The sad simple fact is that the demeaning actions taken by liberals against Bush (ie booing at the inauguration which I don't agree with) are by no means only kept to liberals. I am sorry your ideology prevents you from seeing this. Bill Clinton was villified by conservatives throughout much of the 90's. George Bush took the low road against John McCain in South Carolina in 2000. Of course, John McCain often took that same road in the 2008 election. Personally I thought George Bush was a very poor president. Not because of his "character", but rather because of his actions. But in reality it doesn't matter what you or I think, history will be the judge. If you think conservative don't play the stupid little games that liberals do then you are simply blinded by your ideology. The sad fact that we have to move beyond the dirty politics for the good of the country....or not. But the country will suffer. I guess those of us born beyond the 1930's never had an event (WWII/great depression) that pulled us all together as Americans. But given the present economic climate, I think that is changing.
    PS: As far as my status, ever heard of flea?

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  24. Sarcasm, yes. Lack of respect for Obama followers, absolutely. I have very little respect for the rabid masses that think Obama is going to put a chicken in every pot and a plasma tv on every wall.

    Unfortunately, politics is a dirty business, and neither side has a corner on the nasty market. The R's are just as bad at times. I despised Bill Clinton with every fiber of my being - still do. But at no time did I ever call him a Nazi, a murderer, or any number of hateful, bitter, downright vicious labels the left has been slinging at GWB for the last 8 years (see: a Bush T-shirt with a swastika in place of the "s" or toostupidtobepresident.com). Clinton may have been a whore dog, but he was still the President, for better or for worse. The left wing hatred of GWB has been extraordinary and unprecedented. Books have been written about it. Many magazine articles have been published on that very theme. Moveon.org and Kos - the success of both is a direct result of liberal hatred of GWB. Google "liberal hatred George Bush" sometime, when you have a few extra days to spare...

    Sorry, but you still won't find a single specific, nasty, verbally abusive personal attack from me towards Pres Obama in my post. Do I like him? No. Did I vote for him? Not a chance in hell. Will I criticize his policies? To quote my favorite governor, "You betcha". But do I hope Obama fails miserably? No - because if he does, this country goes down with him.

    Are you trying to say that you ARE the late great flea? Or are you saying that you are Anon because of the lessons you learned from flea? Either way, feel free to out yourself over at my blog - which is where this discussion really belongs, not here, burning up Dr. SF's bandwidth. No one reads my blog yet anyway... :)

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