Monday, February 09, 2009

President Obama's First Press Conference And Analysis With The Best Political Team On Television

Hi everybody. So...this was kind of weird. See, when the last guy made a speech or held a press conference, I would either avoid it like a root canal, or gather some online friends and mock it to pieces. But now, I want to, like, seriously watch. Strange. Anyhoo, I thought our prez did a very nice job. I admit some of the answers were on the rambly side, but isn't it nice to have a leader who you can tell is actually listening to the question and making an effort to answer honestly? We're a long way from slogan-like talking point answers: "we'll stand down, when they stand up."

As for the questioners, well, it was pretty much the good, the bad, and the ugly out there. I'm still completely floored that someone used their question to ask about A-Rod. Seriously, WTF? Since I missed who it was, I tried to rationalize that maybe it was a sports reporter (though what he would be doing at Obama's press conference in the first place is anybody's guess), but no! Google tells me it was Michael Fletcher of the Washington Post. The Washington frigging Post. Seriously! I've no doubt that the majority of high school journalism students would have asked a better question than that. I mean, hey Michael, may next time you can get the president's thoughts on Natalee Holloway. Or maybe whatever latest hijinks Miley Cyrus has gotten herself into. Good lord.

Then there was Chip Reid. Normally I don't condone violence against my reporter friends, but someone seriously needs to slap that dude upside his head. Sorry, I'm getting a little sensitive about this bipartisanship crap. In case you missed it, Reid echoed the whining of many in the media, pointing out that Obama has not gotten much Republican support for the stimulus bill and wondering "what went wrong?" What went wrong is that Obama reached out repeatedly and the Republicans failed to meet him at all, much less halfway. This is not Obama's fault and the American people know it, which is reflected in opinion polls. So the media needs to get off this. All the harping almost makes me think they're happy about the outcome. Ask the Republicans where's their bipartisanship.

There were some bright spots with the questions though. After seeing her get treated like crap by that other guy's administration for years, I had to give a little cheer when Helen Thomas asked her question. CNN's own Ed Henry had a very good and completely unexpected question as well. I've always been infuriated about the media ban on flag draped coffins, so it was nice to hear that voiced. Unfortunately, Obama punted a wee bit, but we'll see where that goes. And Omigod, Sam Stein of Huffington Post got a question! I almost fell off my chair. To think that only a few years ago we were hearing questions from Jeff Gannon, AKA James Guckert, GOP-planted fake journalist by day, male prostitute by night. The times they are a-changing. But even still, Obama continues to reach out: Major Garrett got a question too, as it should be...she said reluctantly.

As for the Best Political Team on Television (TBPTOT), I didn't watch the hour right after the presser (later tuned in for the first hour of 360). Hey, I like TBPTOT enough, but I don't particularly want to see them right now. You know who I want to see? The Best Economic Team on Television (TBETOT). Where are they? I'm quite disheartened (and really annoyed) by how much they're focusing the coverage on the "selling" of this stimulus bill. This isn't a game, you know? And they are very much making it one. The American people do not care about the political capital Obama is using or how much the Republicans are taking over the message or whatever. We out here in the real world not in the media/Washington bubble DO NOT CARE. We care about what works when it comes to getting us out of this mess. It's as simple as that.

Yet here we are, with a comical number of pundits all saying the same irrelevant shit. Ahem. Pardon. Look, I'm not saying the coverage is completely devoid of useful information. Candy Crowley gave us a decent rundown of the bill, Dana Bash tried to explain some of the differences of the House and Senate versions, and Tom Foreman gave us a reality check regarding when stimulus money will actually be spent (answer: not so quickly). These are things that can be filed under "good to know," and there's been other breakdowns and good info in prior broadcasts. But where's the real analysis? For Pete's sake, don't just give us a list of what's in the stimulus and then leave it at that so we can "decide for ourselves." I hate it when they do that because they're lazily skipping the rest of their job.

Why haven't we had a good explanation of the stimulus multiplier? Some items in this bill are more stimulative than others. In other words, based on economic models, we know what gives us more bang for out buck, yet I haven't heard a peep about this on 360. It turns out that a temporary increase in food stamps, extending unemployment benefits, and infrastructure spending are items that are much much more stimulative than, say, the Republican wet dream of permanent tax cuts. But when I watch CNN, all this stuff is just thrown out together in one confusing package. And hey, I'm confused too. I'm definitely no expert, but I'm really wondering why these very basic things have not been discussed on the show I watch every night.

I'll concede that it's possible Obama and the Democrats could do a better job explaining their stance, but it's the job of the news to cut through the murk of both political parties and bring the public the most accurate information they can. I realize this is a hard one: no one knows the exact right answer or what's going to happen, but there is plenty of factual analysis they could be giving us that they're just...not. I'll admit to not watching all of 360 tonight, so maybe I missed it, but I don't recall any substantial coverage of Paul Krugman's latest piece on how the centrists have totally screwed us over. I mean, hell, why not have Krugman on? Or at least, you know, an economist. If I'm remembering right, even Rick Sanchez interviewed an administration economic guy today. Yet every night on 360 we get political panels. Newsflash, the election is over.

Sorry for being Blogger McGrumpy-Pants. But I watched our media completely fall down on the job during the run-up to the Iraq war and look what it wrought. There are whispers of the word "depression," Like, with a "d." I'm not sure how much stock I personally put in that, but I do know things are bad. Really, really, bad. And I feel like once again we're being hung out to dry by the press. So seriously, Anderson Cooper, David Gergen...Bueller? Help the American people out. We need you.


Blogger Anne said...

Hi Eliza,

I watched the Bill Moyers discussion with Jay Rosen and Glenn Greenwald Friday night. I agree it is a must watch. It explains a lot of what the media is doing and why. The frustration you've expressed with the media, they described accurately during the discussion. Hilzoy at the Washington Monthly blog has a post about how it seems the media is covering the stimulus situation as though it were a wrestling match. She is upset for the job layoff situaion/pain that isn't getting through to these people. Chip Reid falls into Greenwald/Rosen's observation that Washington media doesn't want change to come and ease their grip on the message. I am going to extend that to CNN, too. They are part of the problem. Until any of the cable/network news bring on some sort of TBETOT (that was a great term by you), I believe the media will not change. I live in Fort Myers area, when I read Sunday's NY Times article about Lehigh Acres Despair, I was stunned. Our local news haven't quite covered it extensively as this article did. I knew it was bad, I didn't know the depth of it. Obama is coming here Tuesday but I won't be able to go/see/glimpse/hear anything because of my work schedules. Anne D.

5:00 AM  
Blogger eliza said...

@Anne--That's an excellent post by Hilzoy. I may try to work it into a future blog post. Thanks for pointing me to it.

It's too bad you can't see Obama. I saw him once in 2006 when he was stumping for my senator and then early last year during the primaries. I love that I'll be able to tell my grandkids I saw him in person. Not close in person, heh, but in person none the less.

6:00 AM  

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