The Obama Press Conference, The Mainstream Media, And The Difference Between Liberal And Conservative Bloggers

February 10, 2009

I was absolutely mesmerized by President Obama’s press conference last night. Just to see him standing up there felt a bit unreal – I was sincerely expecting W. to step out and walk up to the podium. It just doesn’t feel right to have an American president who is able to stand up there for an hour and (a) sound intelligent, and (b) say things that are, for the most part, accurate and straightforward. The contrast with Bush was obvious. But engage, if you will, in imagining a hypothetical scenario. Imagine that Sarah Palin is President of the United States. Right now. Are you still reading, or did you run out of the room? It’s just hypothetical. Imagine she’s president right now, stuck in the middle of the same economic crisis (how can that be, the Republicans may ask, when Obama’s time in office caused the crisis? – if that is what you’re thinking, head immediately over to Michelle Malkin’s blog and enjoy your new home). She gives an hour press conference. What would that be like? It would be like being a spectator for a 24-car pileup (i.e., NASCAR). Ambulances. Fire trucks. Jaws of life. The whole works. Would she wink? How relieved would she be to get that A-Rod question from the Washington Post?

Which brings me to my next observation from last night. Last night’s press conference was the first one in which a reporter from a liberal blog (Sam Stein from the Huffington Post) was called on (h/t: Steve Benen). Here was Sam Stein’s question:

“Today, Senator Patrick Leahy announced that he wants to set up a truth and reconciliation committee to investigate the misdeeds of the Bush administration. He said that before you turn the page, you have to read the page first. Do you agree with such a proposal? And are you willing to rule out right here and now any prosecution of Bush administration officials?”

Now, of course this question will be pooh-poohed and mocked by the right AND by mainstream journalists. It is simply not Serious with a capital S to ask the president about investigating Bush. It’s shrill, partisan, extreme, adolescent. Stein is not a Serious Adult like, say, David Gergen or David Broder, who are such Serious Adults they can aptly be termed the Village Elders (see Digby).

Here’s what the Serious Adult journalists from the mainstream media had to ask the president at his first press conference, in the wake of the Senate passing an $800+ billion stimulus package. Specifically, here’s what the Washington Post‘s reporter had for Obama:

“What’s your reaction to Alex Rodriguez’s admission that he used steroids as a member of the Texas Rangers?”

This was not one of 10,000 questions asked by that journalist last night. There were 13 questions total last night. 3 were from the print media: NY Times, Washington Post, and Hearst. When WaPo got called on, that was their questions. They spent the whole day preparing questions for Obama’s first press conference, and what they came up with for their one and only shot was a question about A-Rod and steroids.

And wow, the suspense! I was on the edge of my seat – how would Obama answer? Would he say it was a good thing? Would he admit to taking steroids himself? Would he inject himself with steroids RIGHT THERE AND THEN?? I don’t want to ruin it for those of you who didn’t see the show last night, so
****SPOILER ALERT****
Obama went on record as being against steroid use. He said it tainted professional baseball. He said he was disappointed by the A-Rod revelation. Can you imagine? And he said this RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE TV CAMERAS. My mind was blown – I felt like I was in the Matrix. It totally changed my image of Obama, baseball, and the fucking world.

For the final observation: notice, btw, that I did not say that Sam Stein was the first blogger to be called on at a presidential presser, only the first liberal blogger. That’s because W. once called on blogger “Jeff Gannon” from right-wing Talon News. Unfortunately, though, “Jeff Gannon” does not exist. And Talon News was not a news organization but a front for the Republican organization GOPUSA.

As it turns out, “Jeff Gannon” was really James Guckert. And by “reporter,” James really meant he was a male escort who charged $200/hr. You could find James up until recently at his right-wing blog, JeffGannon.com, where he would rail against “Old Media” and the “Angry Gay Left.” Once again, James Guckert was a male escort who charged $200/hr.

This was “Gannon’s” question at that 2005 press conference:

“Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. (Senate Minority Leader) Harry Reid was talking about soup lines. And (Senator) Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet in the same breath they say that Social Security is rock solid and there’s no crisis there. How are you going to work – you’ve said you are going to reach out to these people – how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?”

Now ask yourself, given the media’s predilection toward putting everything in a right/left equally ‘balanced’ frame, is it fair to put the “liberal” blogger and his question for Obama in the same category as the “conservative” blogger and his question for Bush? One’s a tough question that Obama did not want to answer. The other’s not only make-believe (Harry Reid did not talk about bread lines, Hillary Clinton did not say the economy was on the verge of collapse), but isn’t even a real question (“I dare say, Mr. Bush, how will you EVER endure these lunatic lefties?”).

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