Next Time, Just Address The Nation
Obama's press conference last night began with a sharp, 9-minute speech to the nation about the need to fix health care now, and the principles for reform that he sees as essential to any bill. I thought he did a good job bringing it down to the level of the average American. The media didn't like it because he wasn't "excited" enough, at least in the words of Howard Fineman (who's he supposed to be, Terry McAuliffe?), because he didn't mention any particular health care horror story from individuals (except he did), because he didn't give details of his plan (um, they're working on it, and he described most of the options), and because he didn't make any news. Except until the end, when he answered a question about Henry Louis Gates truthfully, causing audible gasps among the white reporters assembled.
Betty Cracker sums it up:
I think the fact that the press didn't like his performance last night - and they're all theater critics anyway - gives me confidence that the public will. And apparently people cheered in Times Square at his comments about Professor Gates, so that wasn't a problem either.
Obama has a command of the facts of this debate, and an ability to explain it in lucid terms. But I think he has to bypass the media now. So far, Obama's public statements have come in prime time press conferences. He has not made an address from the Oval Office, nor has he given any topic the kind of seriousness and gravitas that goes along with it. Inserting the press into it adds a filter that makes them part of the story, and their questions necessarily drive the discussion. I think Obama would be better served just addressing the nation from time to time, in prime time and not in a YouTube address, to focus attention on where he wants it to be. There's a layer of distance that goes with that, so the media cannot get away with "he's tired" or some such catty comment. And Presidential addresses are memorable. They're powerful. They allow for direct communication.
If you have something to say in the future, just address the nation, Mr. President. I don't think I can handle another Chip Reid question, anyway.
...Jon Cohn gets at the problem - he talked to America like they were grown-ups. Reporters don't like that, I guess.