Obama's multiple messages
The president is making all kinds of news--and serving as a media critic on the side.
The classic political strategy, especially in the home stretch of election season, is to pick one theme and pound it again and again. Temperamentally speaking, I'm not sure that Barack Obama is capable of that--and in today's Twitterized universe, it may no longer be possible. He even found himself talking about his religion.
On Monday, the president spent half an hour with Matt Lauer, talking about education reform. That happens to be a largely unsung area of bold reform efforts by the administration, but in the current environment I don't think it buys Obama three votes.
On Tuesday, Rolling Stone published a wide-ranging interview with the president. Yep, it might seem odd for Obama to talk to the same magazine that cost Stanley McChrystal his job. But Jann Wenner endorsed him two years ago and has been a fairly steadfast supporter.
Obama could have finessed the question about Fox News, but he chose to answer this way:
"The golden age of an objective press was a pretty narrow span of time in our history. Before that, you had folks like Hearst who used their newspapers very intentionally to promote their viewpoints. I think Fox is part of that tradition -- it is part of the tradition that has a very clear, undeniable point of view. It's a point of view that I disagree with. It's a point of view that I think is ultimately destructive for the long-term growth of a country that has a vibrant middle class and is competitive in the world. But as an economic enterprise, it's been wildly successful. And I suspect that if you ask Mr. Murdoch what his number-one concern is, it's that Fox is very successful."
He's bashed Fox a number of times, but maybe it fires up the base.
On the same day, the White House practically endorsed MSNBC, with Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton saying: "If you're on the left, if you're somebody like Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow or one of the folks who helps to keep our government honest and pushes and prods to make sure that folks are true to progressive values, then he thinks that those folks provide an invaluable service."
In the Wenner sitdown, Obama highlighted his accomplishments: "I could have had a knock-down, drag-out fight on the public option that might have energized you and The Huffington Post, and we would not have health care legislation now."
And: "I've gotta say that I have been surprised by some of the rhetoric in the business press, in which we are accused of being anti-business."
As for the inevitable Rolling Stone question about his iPod, the president said that "my rap palate has greatly improved. Jay-Z used to be sort of what predominated, but now I've got a little Nas and a little Lil Wayne and some other stuff, but I would not claim to be an expert."
Is the rap vote still in play? Anyone got a poll on that?
In a backyard appearance in New Mexico Tuesday, the man whom a chunk of the country thinks is a Muslim Obama answered a question about his religion: "I'm a Christian by choice," adding that his family "weren't folks who went to church every week...
"We can still see God in other people and do our best to help them find their own grace. So that's what I strive to do and pray to do every day.... I think my public service is a part of that effort to express my Christian faith."
It is the nature of the modern presidency to have to play defense against all kinds of assaults, even on your own church-going.
Obama is still at 46 percent in the new NBC/WSJ survey. But Nancy Pelosi is at 22 percent.
Obama's name, of course, doesn't appear on the November ballot. But while Democratic candidates are trying to run their own races--which in some cases mean running away from him--Obama has little choice, in this nationalized election, but to play cheerleader-in-chief.
| September 29, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Latest stories, Top story | Tags: Fox, Jann Wenner, Keith Olbermann, MSNBC, Obama, Rachel Maddow, Rolling Stone, White House
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