Saturday, March 20, 2010

Noonan on Baier's interview of Obama

More from Peggy Noonan in this weekend's WSJ...

This time, on President Obama's interview with Bret Baier of Fox News Channel (an excerpt with the video pasted in below or part 1 and part 2 of the full interview)-- what she labeled "the most revealing and important broadcast interview of Barack Obama ever". (Noonan notes that Fox and the WSJ are owned by the same company, leading to the possible appearance of conflict of interest.)



It revealed his primary weakness in speaking of health care, which is a tendency to dodge, obfuscate and mislead. He grows testy when challenged. It revealed what the president doesn't want revealed, which is that he doesn't want to reveal much about his plan....the interview was what such interviews rarely are, a public service. That it occurred at a high-stakes time, with so much on the line, only made it more electric...

...the Baier interview was something, and right from the beginning. Mr. Baier's first question was whether the president supports the so-called Slaughter rule, alternatively known as "deem and pass," which would avoid a straight up-or-down House vote on the Senate bill....The president said, "The vote that's taken in the House will be a vote for health-care reform." We shouldn't, he added, concern ourselves with "the procedural issues."...

Then she quotes from the transcript:

Mr. Baier again: "So you'll go deem-and-pass and you don't know exactly what will be in the bill?"

Mr. Obama's response: "By the time the vote has taken place, not only will I know what's in it, you'll know what's in it, because it's going to be posted and everybody's going to be able to evaluate it on the merits."

Before commenting:

That's news in two ways. That it will be posted—one assumes the president means on the Internet and not nailed to a telephone pole—should suggest it will be posted for a while, more than a few hours or days. So American will finally get a look at it. And the president was conceding that no, he doesn't know what's in the bill right now...

And then to the bribes-- err...."special deals"-- to get additional votes:

Mr. Baier interrupts: "Mr. President, [can you] tell me what the special deals are that are in or not today."

Mr. Obama: "I just told you what was in and what was not in."

Mr. Baier: "Is Connecticut in?"

Mr. Obama: "Connecticut—what are you specifically referring to?"

Mr. Baier: "The $100 million for the hospital? Is Montana in for the asbestos program? Is—you know, listen, there are people—this is real money, people are worried about this stuff."

Mr. Obama: "And as I said before, this—the final provisions are going to be posted for many days before this thing passes."

Noonan continues her analysis of Baier's effort and how we [should] interview presidents in general:

Throughout, Mr. Baier pressed the president. Some thought this bordered on impertinence. I did not. Mr. Obama now routinely filibusters in interviews. He has his message, and he presses it forward smoothly, adroitly. He buries you in words....

Mr. Baier forced him off his well-worn grooves. He did it by stopping long answers with short questions, by cutting off and redirecting. In this he was like a low-speed bumper car....Mr. Baier's style seemed—this is admittedly subjective—not rude but within the bounds, and not driven by the antic spirit that sometimes overtakes reporters. He seemed to be trying to get new information. He seemed to be attempting to better inform the public....

Presidents have a right to certain prerogatives, including the expectation of a certain deference. He's the president, this is history. But we seem to have come a long way since Ronald Reagan was regularly barked at by Sam Donaldson, almost literally, and the president shrugged it off....

Finally...

And so it ends, with a health-care vote expected this weekend. I wonder at what point the administration will realize it wasn't worth it—worth the discord, worth the diminution in popularity and prestige, worth the deepening of the great divide. What has been lost is so vivid, what has been gained so amorphous, blurry and likely illusory. Memo to future presidents: Never stake your entire survival on the painful passing of a bad bill....

1 Comments:

At March 21, 2010 at 10:36 PM , Blogger Jenna said...

He has turned out worse than I ever imagined.

November can't come soon enough.

 

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