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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Free Press, But Don't Press Obama

Free Press, But Don’t Press Obama
One of the cherished freedoms in America, is the free press.   And one of the press institutions in American is the White House Press Corp.   These are the best and brightess members of the world press corp, that have the high visibility assignment of covering the White House.    Usually, that also means covering the President.   Except for President Obama.   He is generally unavailable.  
There was some rich irony at the White House today -- President Obama signed the Press Freedom Act, and then promptly refused to take any questions.
The new law expands the State Department's annual human rights reports to include a description of press freedoms in each country. It seemed a good opportunity to showcase press freedom in this country.
Recall that last Friday the president refused to take any questions after delivering his angry statement on the oil spill in the Rose Garden. And he has not held a prime time White House news conference in many months, despite much pleading from pundits and members of the media.
So after he signed the bill, and as the press "wranglers" began aggressively herding us out of the room, I asked if he still has confidence in BP. He ignored the question so I tried this: "In the interest of press freedom, would you take a couple questions on BP?"
That did elicit a smile (from the President), and he told me I was free to ask questions. Someone else shouted, "Will you answer them?"
He said he's not holding a press conference today as we were escorted out the door.
From the CBS White House correspondent Chip Ried, 5.16.10

So, let’s not ask any questions of the President.   The usual give and take is “off limits”, as only the scripted version of the President’s views and comments are allowed, and only when the teleprompter is available.    No need to respond to a question by the Press, when that will only threaten the sanitized version of the White House story!

We’ll see how long the public relations campaign lasts before the press demands Presidential access for some real news?

© 2010, Jasper Welch, Four Corners Media,   

Governor Christie Unleashed

Governor Christie Unleashed

Finally, a governor, willing to be frank, and funny with firm conviction plus a tone of authority.    The mainstream media is being welcomed to the new politics, along the lines of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.    The reporter asked a question designed to trap the governor.   Governor Christie didn’t take the bait.  Instead he went after the reporter in a way that left the voters cheering.  And the folks in the room actually laughing.

It's true: Political media often focus on process and personality over policy, treating substantive and complicated issues as though they were political theater. So when a New Jersey reporter asked Republican Governor Chris Christie about his "confrontational tone," Christie unleashed a tirade on behalf of an entire nation tired of those media habits. The bipartisan consensus is that Christie's blunt response was, to put it simply, awesome.
Max Fisher The Atlantic Wire  

Compare this to the President, who hasn’t had a give and take news conference since July 2009.    Instead of the rough and tumble approach taken by the present Governor of New Jersey, Mr. Smooth uses a teleprompter to stay on the sanitized message.     One problem: Mr. Obama is getting less believable by the day.  The American people are asking: What does President Obama really think?   Can he actually answer a blunt and challenging question from the White House press corp?
The President may want some lessons in public candor from Governor Christie.

© 2009, Jasper Welch, Four Corners Media  

Friday, May 7, 2010

Democrat Obey Bails Out of Congressional Re-Election Bid

Democrat Obey Bails Out of Congressional Re-Election Bid

As the 2010 Congressional elections come into view, a number of Democrats that serve in Congress are calling it quits.    The latest Democrat to call it quits, is the powerful chairman of the Appropriations Committee, David Obey, D-Wisconsin, 7th District.   A member for 40 years, Mr. Obey was one of the biggest spenders in Washington, a political heritage that is more and more difficult to defend with voters back home.

Dateline-WASHINGTON, DC — Representative David R. Obey of Wisconsin, the third-most senior member of the House and chairman of the Appropriations Committee, announced Wednesday that he was retiring after four decades in Congress, a decision that reflected both a generational shift and the difficult political environment for Democrats.

        “I’m ready to turn the page,” said Mr. Obey, 71. He told lawmakers and reporters crammed into the committee room where he has held sway for so long that he was “bone tired,” before adding, “And frankly, I think that my district is ready for somebody new, to make a fresh start.”
    Mr. Obey, an occasionally cantankerous figure and die-hard liberal who spearheaded last year’s economic stimulus legislation, was facing a competitive election in his sprawling district, with Republicans trying to show they could threaten senior Democrats.     Source:
So were does this story of Obey retiring fit into the mix of overall retirements in Congress?     He is one of 17 Democrat members, along with 20 Republican members who are not running for the House of Representatives in 2010.

The surprise retirement of Wisconsin Rep. Dave Obey on Wednesday brought the number of Democratic retirements to 17 -- short of the 20 Republicans leaving or running for other offices but still perilously close to the danger zone for Democrats in the 2010 midterms.
By political handicapper Charlie Cook's projections, 13 of the 17 open Democratic seats are marginal -- meaning that they are likely to be competitive between the two parties. There are fewer competitive districts among the 20 Republican retirements with both national House committees likely to spend campaign cash in four or five of the GOP seats.    Washington Post, Fix political blog   

So as the 2010 Election approaches,  37 members of Congress (17 Democrat and 20 Republicans) are stepping aside, rather that facing voters in November.   Clearly the anti-incumbent and anti-Washington mood among voters is creating a difficult reelection environment for members of Congress.   

© 2010, Jasper Welch, Four Corners Media,