I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a president do five Sunday morning talk shows on the same day before. Some analysts are starting to worry that Pres. Obama is overexposed. (Peggy Noonan said on Stephanopoulos that he risks becoming a “boor.”) I don’t agree. And only the obsessed (including your obedient ink-stained wretch) would have caught more than one of the shows. (Obama should hope not, since his comments across the shows were highly repetitive, which tends to make clear the extent to which he has rehearsed his answers. But let’s not pretend to be too shocked about that.)
In general, the prez seemed, as usual, smart, likeable, calm, reasonable. But I do wonder whether any of this stuff is moving the needle. (Obama’s approval ratings, on average, seem to be holding steady for the last week or two, barely above 50 percent. His most recent Gallup, of 52 percent approve, 42 disapprove, taken 9/17-19, is typical of recent results. Holding steady might seem encouraging after a summer of steady declines, but on the other hand, there is no suggestion of an uptrend, and 52 is not a good number.)
By the way, the one Sunday show Obama declined to do was Fox News Sunday. I think that’s a mistake. The snub gives Fox grounds to grumble. Chris Wallace isn’t generally a cheapshot artist (although the snub did give Wallace grounds to go on the O’Reilly show and call the Obama press people “the biggest bunch of crybabies” he’s seen.) And it slightly undermines one of Obama’s most consistent messages: that he is ready to assume good motives for those who disagree with him and remains open to constructive exchanges across the ideological divide.
I caught the interviews on Stephanopoulos and Meet the Press and read about the others. The similarities of the questions he was asked was impressive and says something about the journo-herd mentality. Everyone had to ask about former Pres. Carter’s statement that the opposition to Obama is rooted in racism. Obama said no, not in general (with an obvious exception for some cases but also, to his credit, a reference to those who support him primarily because of his race). The reality is complex and in many ways unknowable, but I think it is smart and at least a little brave for Obama not to use the race card and engage his opponents on substance instead.
I appreciated David Gregory (on Meet the Press) pushing Obama to identify the “hard choices” he has made, or asked Americans to face, in the health care debate. Obama’s answer, that his stated willingness to talk about or look at malpractice lawsuit restraint was a tough choice, was pretty lame. I share the premise of the question: whether constant appeasement of all stakeholders is the best way to optimize the U.S. health care system? I’m pretty sure it isn’t and I’m pretty sure Obama knows that.If you listen carefully, you will note that Obama never says that his health care approach will make U.S. health care as universal, or as efficient, or as cost-rational, or as effective as it could be.
But the honest reply that Obama didn’t give to Gregory — that constant appeasement of all stakeholders may be the only way to get any bill at all, may be sad but true. I hope not, but I fear so.