What Obligations, Blogger?

Let’s get one thing straight up front: I have no idea how I would act in front of the president. I fancy I’m not a star-struck person, susceptible to celebrity. But I’m also not a fan of confrontation, either, at least in my personal life. I tend to say something once, if the person doesn’t agree with me, or evades my question, I go on about my business and do what I want. However, in business situations I’ve been known to harass executives with hard questions and when I was involved in local, retail politics, I could get very pointed. Operative word here is ‘could.’ Sometimes I would, sometimes I would not. A lot depended on if the fight was worth investing my personal capital. I did almost call Karl Rove a war criminal once in a bookstore in San Antonio. But my ex-wife was with me and she saw it coming and shut me down. That’s one my few regrets in life.

All that being said, we are talking about the President of the United States. Honestly ask yourself how you would act before judging other bloggers, which is why I prefaced this post with a long caveat.

As to the bloggers in question, John Amato, Oliver Willis, BarbinMD, Duncan Black and Joe Sudbay, here’s who I know and who I don’t and what I think about their performance: Oliver Willis is and consistently has been an Obama cheerleader. BarbinMD blogs at DailyKos and I am not a reader of hers. I used to read Crooks and Liars every day, but what John does is more video than textual criticism. I do read Duncan almost every day (at Eschaton). And Joe Sudbay blogs with John Aravosis. Joe asked the only really substantive, hard hitting questions. Frankly, I’m surprised Duncan wasn’t more pointed about White House econ policy and I am disappointed. I expected nothing less than sycophancy from Willis, so no surprises there.

So take all that with a grain of salt. In the end, it’s no wonder Jane Hamsher wasn’t invited. I have no doubt she would have challenged Obama. Why no Glenn Greenwald, either?

Anyway, on the whole, like CJR, I’m not impressed, but I’m not condemnatory, either, because I simply don’t have a clue how I would have acted.

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Sean Paul Kelley

Traveler of the (real) Silk Road, scholar and historian, photographer and writer - founder of The Agonist.

12 CommentsLeave a comment

  • But then again, if anyone posting here had an invitation to the WH and sat down as part of a round table, we’d probably pee our pants as the limo pulled up to the port cochere.

    It seems like the White House is finally recognizing the need to engage liberals, but Obama is getting out there and is On Message. Notice the amount of text devoted to questions in that transcript, and the large swaths devoted to eloquent non-answer answers? That’s not a discussion. He’s filibustering, taking up all the time talking, talking, talking a shaggy dog story that never actually addresses the original question. I think the Jon Stewart interview last night was telling. “It’s so hard . . . ” Stewart said, “to not talk!”

    Stewart even got him to say that Larry Summers had done a “heck of a job.” WTF!?!? I laughed out loud! And it was great to hear someone tell the president what most people think of his “historic” health care bill (and I paraphrase): “it just papers over a system of corruption.”

    I think the bloggers aren’t accustomed to interviewing sitting presidents in the full glory and august spectacle of the White House, and they didn’t want to seem disrespectful. Stewart did a better job, but he has more experience. He got Obama off his game. I loved the look on his face when Stewart said, “Not to lump you with other presidents, but . . . ”

  • I don’t regard my own competence as the standard by which I evaluate others’, so I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about whether I would have done better or worse. But this was lame, lame, lame.

  • I agree it wasn’t exactly a “Nixon confronting the protesters” moment.

    I would have liked to have seen more talk about reining in Wall Street, re-instituting Glass-Steagall or something very similar. The President still has refused to put the blame where it really lies on the near-collapse of the economy, and although I know he takes pains to avoid being caught in a blame game, it would really help the country if he just came out and nailed Wall Street, and in particular Goldman Sachs. They are the guys that caused this thing. It didn’t happen all by itself, and it wasn’t unforeseeable.

    Some blogger should have pointed out to the President that there was definite set of causes, and a definite set of players, and that the country would benfit by identifying them, prosecuting where necessary, and restructuring the rules they get to play by for them (that is, not letting them set their own rules).

    So far no one has had the balls to directly the confront the President on that question and it needs to be done.

    There was good talk about the need to reform the filibuster procedure, and he was bang-on when he talked about how other countries are moving ahead with pushing economic agendas through while the USA remains filibustered in the mud.

    While I appreciate the point he made about whether you press forward with a big media-grabbing symbolic fight and fail to pass anything, versus working patiently and persistently to try to secure 60 votes and passage of “the best we can get for now” legislation, he errs all the time on the non-confrontive side.

    I work managing people and I am a diplomatic sort of guy myself, but if there is one thing I have learned, it’s that occassionally I have to stare somebody down in a way that everybody sees so they understand that I mean business, even when I’m smiling.

    And Obama needs that. He needs, in at least one or two areas to stare the GOP down, even if he loses on a particular piece of legislation, because now, nobody is sure if he means business when he sets an agenda. Without that, the GOP thinks he’s a punching bag.

    And while rolling with the punches is a necessary technique, your opponent has to also get the message that you can take it, and deliver solid dead-on punch, or else they will always have the psychological advantage.

    Obama consistently gives the psychological advantage away. And it’s killing him. He really needs to fix that.

  • I came in to say the same thing. The only way people’s behaviour in general and specific will improve is if they are criticized for their failings, where those failings are rationally, objectively observed. Whether you would have done the same is something to temper your *feelings* and *tone* but not the substance of your comments.

  • just an effort to disarm critics

    what the Prez says to you is irrelevant

    what you say to readers is what matters

    but I have to admit, too bad about the Rove thing

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