It's like they're handing out training wheels over there.
Today Rep. Paul Ryan appeared on CNBC to discuss Obama's proposed budget and to hype the (unseen) Republican alternative:
We're going to go in a completely different direction, and show the American people how we would do things much, much differently to restore growth and confidence to our economy, keep the American economy growing, and not switch over to a Europeanized type of economy.
The reaction from the CNBC's guest co-host, Fred Malek, founder of Thayer Capital Partners?
Paul, that gives me a lot of confidence, what you said. I think you're absolutely going in the right direction.
And CNBC corporate boss Jeff Zucker wonders why the channel remains a prime target for criticism?
Just a follow-up to Tuesday night's item about the CNBC report which bemoaned the fact that those poor television networks were going to lose millions of dollars in ad revenue because they had to air Obama's primetime press conference.
We already noted the absurdity of throwing a pity party for TV execs who last night simply had to perform a rare public function in exchange for free use of the public airwaves. But the whole TV-lost-millions-in-revenue premise is also annoying because it's pure fantasy. And because CNBC played its viewers for rubes.
Its report suggested that because the nets had to televise Obama, they couldn't air the TV commercials that had already been purchased for that one-hour time slot. And technically, that's accurate. But the notion that networks automatically lost that ad money just isn't true. That's not how the business works because television advertising is not a zero sum game.
Combined, networks control more than one hundred hours of primetime programming each week. Obviously, if some ads get bumped for breaking news (i.e. a White House press conference), networks have the ability to air a those handful of lost ad slots on other programs, just as networks have done for decades. Think about it. Do you really think that when networks break into programming for hurricane coverage, or whatever, that the next day their ad salesmen start writing checks to Procter & Gamble and Budweiser and State Farm because their ads didn't run the previous day? That's simply not how the television business functions.
Networks do sometimes, very reluctantly, hand out free spots to* advertisers if the nets' entertainment programming, over many weeks and months, fails to live up to the ratings rate that the commercials were purchased on. (They're called make goods.) And in that case, yes, nets can lose millions in advertising. But to suggest, as CNBC did, that because of a single White House presser, the networks automatically lost every ad dollar from the commercials that didn't run last night is pretty misleading.
*Changed original wording to reflect point raised by reader.
How? By suggesting Obama is becoming something of a chameleon who reinvents himself depending on the political setting. The press spent most of 2000 depicting candidate Gore as somebody who was so unsure of his own political skin that he was constantly 'reinventing' himself.
Basically, that Gore was a phony.
Now check out the headline to the Times' article on the press conference: "In a Volatile Time, Obama Strikes a New Tone."
See, it's a new tone; a new approach. It's a new, different Obama. The Times leans heavily on that approach in the lead:
For just under an hour on Tuesday night, Americans saw not the fiery and inspirational speaker who riveted the nation in his address to Congress last month, or the conversational president who warmly engaged Americans in talks across the country, or even the jaunty and jokey president who turned up on Jay Leno.
Instead, according to the Times, what we got "was the professor in chief."
Note how the Times stressed that Obama last night was completely different than the Obama who addressed Congress just one month ago. Back then Obama was a "fiery and inspirational speaker." The Times considers this to be newsworthy.
First of all, it seems self-evident that presidents communicate differently when addressing the nation with a prepared speech before Congress (or on a TV talk show), than they do when answering questions extemporaneously at a press conference. Second, it seems self-evident that there's nothing wrong with presidents communicating differently in different situations. But the Times seems to think it's a big deal Obama acted one way at the press conference and another way in his Congressional debate. That Obama wasn't fiery.
But was Obama really "fiery" when he addressed Congress in February? That's not how we remember his rather somber address to the nation. So we went back and read the Times' next-day article about Obama's speech (Headline: "Amid Gloom, Obama Pledges Recovery"). And guess what, according to the Times, Obama wasn't "fiery," or anything even approaching that.
It's only now, when trying to hype the idea that Obama is changing his tone (reinventing himself?), that the Times retroactively claims Obama was "fiery" in February and professorial in March.
Todd Gitlin at TPMCafe offers up the context by looking back at a February, 2001 presser and how scribes covered it. Notes Gitlin:
But at least when George W. Bush stood tall in the White House we didn't have any of that persnickety, fussy, lugubrious, pompous, professor stuff, and the nation's watchdogs fidgety students weren't bored out of their gourds "waiting for the ring of the bell."
Los Angeles Times blogger/former Laura Bush press secretary wasn't impressed by President Obama last night. Surprise, surprise.
Tuesday morning The Ticket examined the White House's current political strategy and asked the question who would show up at Barack Obama's second nationally-televised news conference that evening: the president or the senator?
The answer: Neither.
Professor Barack Obama showed up.
And if you remember one of those required college lecture courses in the large auditorium at 8:10 a.m. listening to a droning don, and how it felt, slumped in the cushy seats having skipped breakfast for an extra 13 minutes of ZZZZ.
this news conference seemed anticlimatic. (See video below.) At times the president appeared to be mailing in his delivery.
The result for anyone who stayed for the entire presentation was another lengthy, somber less-than-animated sales pitch for the need to spend trillions to jump-start the economy...
Now, I don't want Andrew Malcolm to be bored. That's a less-than-ideal way to go through your workday.
So here's a suggestion, Mr. Malcolm: Quit. Do it now. Hand in your press pass. There are plenty of out-of-work and soon-to-be-out-of-work-reporters who actually give a damn and who won't have any trouble staying awake for a presidential press conference and who are capable of producing a substantive article that will actually help readers understand what is happening in the world, instead of simply whining that they are insufficiently stimulated. Let one of them have your job. Take up skydiving or running with the bulls or whatever it takes to get you sufficiently excited, and let serious people do your serious job.
Here is today's daily Red Scare Index -- our search of CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC and CNBC for uses of the following terms: Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic, Communism, Communist, Communistic, Marxism and Marxist.
Here are the numbers for yesterday, Tuesday, March 24, 2009:
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 45
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 9
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 3
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 4
CNN Headline News: 2
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 0
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 2
Fox News Channel: 28
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 26
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 2
Fox Business Network: 13
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 11
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 1
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 5
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 0
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 0
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 0
The above numbers are the result of a TVeyes.com power search for these terms on these networks.
It isn't just the Daily News. The New York Times' Peter Baker and Adam Nagourney write under the header "In a Volatile Time, Obama Strikes a New Tone for Crisis":
Americans saw not the fiery and inspirational speaker who riveted the nation in his address to Congress last month, or the conversational president who warmly engaged Americans in talks across the country, or even the jaunty and jokey president who turned up on Jay Leno.
Instead, in his second prime-time news conference from the White House, it was Barack Obama the lecturer, a familiar character from early in the campaign. Placid and unsmiling, he was the professor in chief, offering familiar arguments in long paragraphs — often introduced with the phrase, "as I said before" — sounding like the teacher speaking in the stillness of a classroom where students are restlessly waiting for the ring of the bell.
Got that? Baker and Nagourney were bored out of their minds. Where were the jokes? The yelling? The seal bouncing a beach ball on its nose? All of this policy crap is just so dull.
But Baker and Nagourney weren't done:
Mr. Obama showed little emotion. He rarely cracked a joke or raised his voice. ... his voice sounded calm and unbothered... To a certain extent, Mr. Obama's demeanor could have been calculated ... The only time he seemed irritated ... perhaps his only joke of the night ... This was Mr. Obama as more enervating than energizing.
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.