Chuck Todd's suggestion during last night's press conference that President Obama should ask the public to "sacrifice" -- as though lost jobs, health care and houses aren't enough -- drew immediate and widespread criticism online. And not just from progressives. At National Review's "The Corner," Ramesh Ponnuru implicitly criticized the question, noting that Obama "made a reasonable point about the way the economy is already forcing people to make sacrifices." Todd's question drew rapid criticism on Twitter, too.
Now, we know that the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz regularly reads National Review -- he quotes its content frequently. And we know he's an obsessive Twitter-user, and was Tweeting during last night's presser. So it's a little odd that his article about the press conference doesn't mention Todd's "sacrifice" question at all. It was perhaps the worst -- certainly the most widely-criticized -- question asked, and yet the nation's most prominent media critic didn't even mention it.
In fact, if you didn't know anything about the press conference other than what you read in Howard Kurtz's article, you'd think Todd simply asked whether those who were "irresponsible" should be helped by Obama's policies. Here's how Kurtz described Todd's question:
NBC's Chuck Todd said that "some of your programs, whether for Main Street or Wall Street, have actually cushioned the blow for those that were irresponsible."
And here's the part of Todd's question Kurtz left out: "Why haven't you asked for something specific that the public should be sacrificing to participate in this economic recovery?"
Also missing from Kurtz's article: the word "deficit." That's more than a little surprising, given that the journalists who questioned Obama last night were bizarrely fixated on the topic.
The New York Daily News' Kenneth Bazinet and David Saltonstall mistook last night's presidential press conference for a Broadway opening.
Headlined, "President Obama's Dull Delivery During Press Conference Fails to Inspire," the two theater critics announced:
President Obama feels your pain - and your anger - but that assumes you have any feeling at all after his less-than-electrifying press conference Tuesday night. Obama used his second prime-time news conference to acknowledge disgust over AIG bonuses, but mostly he somberly urged Americans to be patient and give his multipronged economic blueprint a chance to work.
Got that? In discussing his multipronged economic blueprint, Obama was too somber. Of course, this is the same Daily News that early this week mocked Obama for being too jocular during his 60 Minutes appearance.
Chuck Todd leapfrogs Marc Ambinder's potential question with this actual one: "Why haven't you asked for something specific that the public should be sacrificing to participate in this economic recovery?"
UPDATE: A little background: a few weeks ago, Howard Fineman claimed "The Establishment" is unhappy about President Obama's "failure to call for genuine sacrifice on the part of all Americans, despite the rhetorical claim that everyone would have to 'give up' something." As I explained at the time:
Obama has, of course, called for the very wealthiest of Americans -- those making more than $200,000 -- to make some sacrifices, in the form of higher taxes. So what Howard Fineman and the Establishment -- many of whom make more than $200,000 -- really mean when they complain that Obama isn't calling for sacrifice is that he isn't calling for sacrifice from the working class. If only Obama would demand higher taxes from laid-off autoworkers and middle managers and single mothers working two jobs, Howard Fineman and the Establishment would be euphoric.
CNBC throws a pity party for the TV nets because they have to air a primetime press conference from the White House tonight and have to adjust their "carefully designed" Tuesday lineups. And OMG, they won't be able to cram as many ads onto the airwaves tonight. And wouldn't you know it, it all couldn't come at a worst time!
We noted last month how the WashPost scolded Obama for having the gall to address the nation in primetime. This CNBC report is just more of the same nonsense; nonsense we never saw from the press when Bush took to the airwaves.
Today, next to AIG execs, it's hard to imagine who deserves less sympathy than television pros who use the public airwaves for free and set aside minuscule amounts for the country's good. Tonight's one such occasion and CNBC acts like the roof is caving in.
We especially liked the CNBC lament that Obama's presser will muck up TV ratings:
Tonight's press conference is on one of the most popular time slots on one of the highest rated nights in the week, and it's during the crucial sweeps' period where the nets set their ad rates.
Actually, this year's March ratings sweeps (they're usually in February) are something of an industry joke and nobody's really taking them seriously anyway.
So save it.
One Question I Might Ask Obama....
On politics and the economy: your administration has said that furor over the AIG bonuses is, while understandable, a quote-end-quote -- distraction - from the real issues. But weren't those embers stoked by your own administration...before the AIG issue.....attempting to shift the debate in Washington from fixing the economy to punishing Wall Street?
Are you concerned that your rhetoric about anger, and particularly, anger against Wall Street, helped enflame public anger and distract attention from the economy's real problems?
Wouldn't it be better to ask a question that focuses on "the economy's real problems" rather than one that distracts attention from them?
Because it's all about them. Even presidential press conferences. From Politico (of course):
Like athletes limbering up for the big game, White House reporters have been going through elaborate preparatory rituals as they bone up for tonight's prime-time news conference with President Obama, the second formal "presser" of his presidency.
How long before Politico starts printing up baseball cards featuring their fave Beltway reporters?
The beauty of the Internet: we say it here and comes out there.
Last week we were very critical of an A1 Post story that declared without the slightest bit of evidence that "the public" was abandoning the Obama White House over the unfolding bonus scandal. This week during his weekly online chat with readers, Kurtz was asked about the article from a questioner who used our CF post as the premise.
Kurtz defending the Post article by saying he "didn't think the piece was opinionated."
Hmm, Let's take a look:
President Obama's apparent inability to block executive bonuses at insurance giant AIG has dealt a sharp blow to his young administration and is threatening to derail both public and congressional support for his ambitious political agenda.
Post proof in the article that the AIG story was "threatening" to derail Obama's entire agenda? Proof as in quotes from independent experts, telling anecdotes, or polling data? None.
The populist anger at the executives who ran their firms into the ground is increasingly blowing back on Obama, whom aides yesterday described as having little recourse in the face of legal contracts that guaranteed those bonuses.
Post proof in the article that the AIG was "blowing back" on Obama? None.
Obama himself sought to channel the public's sense of disbelief yesterday.
Post proof in the article that Obama was simply trying to "channel" disbelief, rather than expressing his own actual disbelief? None.
But the bonus issue, in particular, is hounding Obama as he pursues his larger goals, in part because of the president's own repeated declarations of outrage -- offered again yesterday -- aimed especially at the firms that are feeding at the public trough.
Post proof in the article that the AIG issue was "hounding" Obama? None.
Post reporters last week knew exactly the tale they wanted to tell. The problem was they didn't even go through the normal motions of assembling quasi-evidence to back it up. Instead they wrote a news story that simply expressed how they felt the AIG story was playing; how they thought the "public" would react.
The Post's online reader was right: the piece belonged on the opinion pages.
UPDATE: Actual polling data now exists and we know the press was dead wrong when it claimed the public was blaming Obama. Not even close.
Here's what Mr. "Punch Drunk" told Howie Kurtz about interviewing the POTUS, just hours before Kroft's Obama interview aired on 60 Minutes Sunday night [emphasis added]:
"I think that interviews with presidents are different than almost anything else. They're sort of the last bastion of civility ... particularly when you're in the Oval Office. You're not supposed to wag your finger at him, and you're not supposed to get -- it's supposed to be civil. And so you always try and keep that in mind."
Keenly aware that Oval Office interviews are supposed to be especially civil, what did Kroft do? He inserted himself into the story--he manufactured news--by asking Obama the idiotic and disrespectful question about whether the president was "punch drunk."
Obama had smiled and laughed a couple times during the interview. Once was in response to an even dumber question from Kroft (see here). And in another instance, Obama used what he called "gallows humor" to acknowledge the fact that public support for bailing out the U.S. auto workers had collapsed. And from there, Kroft began lecturing Obama--figuratively wagging his finger at him--about laughing too much, and then he asked a juvenile question about being punch drunk.
As conservative Fred Barnes noted yesterday, Kroft's left-field query was "extremely disrespectful and rude."
So much for Kroft being "civil."
A month ago, Stuart Rothenberg used his Roll Call column to tout the possibility that 2010 could be "the start of a comeback for the GOP in the Northeast." Today, Politico runs what is essentially the same article, headlined "GOP sees signs of life in Northeast."
Though he devoted nearly 1,300 words to the article, Politico reporter Josh Kraushaar couldn't find space to quote or paraphrase a single Democrat. That would be bad enough if the article simply included comments from Republicans predicting electoral success. But Kraushaar includes Republican attacks on Democrats, such as this:
Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.), who entered the race last week, immediately blasted Dodd for "failing in his oversight duties" as chairman. And he accused Democrats of backing legislation that would stifle economic growth - sounding off on the major theme of his campaign.
How do Dodd and other Democrats respond to these charges? Do they have anything critical to say about Simmons and the Republicans? Politico doesn't think it matters. One side of the story is plenty.
The 23rd paragraph of the Politico article does, however, begin "Not everything is looking rosy for Northeastern Republicans." Sadly, that's as close as it comes to balance.
FOX contributor Newt Gingrich is upset:
To which Matt Cooper replies:
That isn't really fair to Newt, though. Gingrich has only been divorced twice so far. There was Jackie, his former high school math teacher, whom he divorced as she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery, and Marianne, whom he married shortly after divorcing Jackie, and with whom he was still married when he began his relationship with Callista -- an affair that occurred around the time he was promising to never give another speech as Speaker of the House without mentioning the Lewinsky scandal. He and Callista are still married.
Anyway, in fairness to Gingrich, that's only two divorces.
UPDATE: Maybe Gingrich was just getting a head start on displaying the enthusiasm of the convert. Chris Cillizza reported today:
Gingrich To Become a Catholic Saturday: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will officially convert to Catholicism this Saturday at St. Joseph's in Washington, D.C. The move has long been planned -- the New York Times Matt Bai mentioned it in a profile of Gingrich last month -- and will allow Gingrich and his wife, Calista, to practice the same faith. (Gingrich was a Baptist for much of his life.) Let the "what does this mean for 2012" speculation begin!
So he isn't even a Catholic yet, and he's already lecturing Notre Dame about how best to uphold Catholic values. Nice.