"No one shifted an armchair, moved a flower arrangement or asked an unexpected question. President Obama gave five back-to-back television interviews broadcast on Sunday that were as tightly choreographed — and eerily similar — as the multiple Magritte bowler-hatted men milling in the remake of “The Thomas Crown Affair.”
The president’s talk show grand slam, conversations with CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS and Univision, all taped on Friday in the Roosevelt Room, was a remarkable — and remarkably overt — display of media management. Mr. Obama even doled out equal doses of presidential charm, chuckling ruefully about “rambunctious” protesters to Bob Schieffer of CBS and speaking self-deprecatingly to George Stephanopoulos of ABC, conceding that he had not presented his health care proposals in a way that allowed people to put “their whole arms around it.” “And that’s been a case where I have been humbled, and I just keep on trying harder,” he said. “Because I — I really think it’s the right thing to do for the country.”
No other president has been a guest on so many Sunday talk shows at once, which signaled how much Mr. Obama wanted to reclaim the health care debate and persuade skeptics that his plans would not increase taxes on the middle class. But for so well-spoken and confident a president, the lack of spontaneity on Sunday was striking. So was the homogeneity: Mr. Obama appeared on Univision, but he drew the line at Fox. Viewers have grown accustomed to the drama of live politics.
Sunday looked more like a string of TNT reruns, an Obama health care overhaul marathon. In each conversation, Mr. Obama proved what most people already know: he is a deft and appealing speaker who can stay on message. But there was nothing in those stagy interviews that shed light on whether his message would take hold. When asked by ABC if a health insurance mandate was the same as a tax increase, the president replied: “What I’ve said is that if you can’t afford health insurance, you certainly shouldn’t be punished for that.” He added: “For us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase.
What it’s saying is that we’re not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you anymore.” Mr. Obama declined to discuss his proposals on the one outlet guaranteed to find fault (or change the topic to the Acorn scandal). And that made his star turn look less like a media blitz than Medici vengeance — Fox did not broadcast Mr. Obama’s health care speech to Congress on Sept. 9, so Mr. Obama did not speak to “Fox News Sunday.” That omission was not as tactical as it was telling: a rare sign of frustration, and payback, by a White House that prides itself on diplomacy and an even keel. Mr. Obama sought on Sunday to bring a little order and civility to a debate that grows ever more heated and shrill.
But by boycotting, the White House seemed to be getting caught up in the kind of hostilities that increasingly divide Fox News Channel from its rivals. Mr. Obama is not usually one to avoid high-risk interviews or dodge hostile crowds. He was the first sitting president to appear on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” in March, and despite a gaffe there the president plans to appear on David Letterman’s show on Monday. Mr. Obama has the wit to banter with comedians (and dance with Ellen DeGeneres). He has the charm to disarm detractors: his 2008 campaign interview with Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday” was quite cordial."Whatever. Fox was cut out because it's the only network covering the ACORN and soon to be NEA scandal that might just be the Obama Watergate. "No one to dodge hostile crowds"...my fanny. Mr. Teleprompter got testy with George Stephanopoulos when he tried to get Obama to admit that his "mandated healthcare" wasn't in fact a tax increase. Anytime this guy is asked a question which is off script he squirms more than a worm on a hot griddle. Just for effect, who could forget this montage of Obama's skipping questions.
But more, with Mr. Wonderful flooding TV screens every five minutes, I believe it might just backfire, as he becomes overexposed. Remember Joe Piscopo? Say Goodnight Barack.