Is President Obama just TOO media-friendly?
‘Barry in DC’ calls into radio show in latest ruse of ‘over savvy’ White House
The outgoing Governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine, was taking calls this week during his final Ask the Governor show on WTOP, a Washington DC-area radio station, when the producer put through "Barry in DC".
"Barry" quickly turned out to be President Barack Obama. He jokingly complained to Kaine - a fellow Democrat - about the notorious traffic in northern Virginia before thanking him for his service as Governor and wishing Kaine and his family a happy Christmas.
No one is denying it was a nice gesture, planned by friends of Kaine's. But as the President flies off for his family Christmas in Hawaii, heartened by the Senate's adoption of his healthcare reform Bill this morning, the episode adds to the growing sense that Obama is just a little too comfortable with the media and that the new "era of openness" he promised when he entered the White House is a shade too open.
In recent weeks, Michelle Obama has done a live question and answer segment from the White House with talk show host Jay Leno, while Oprah Winfrey has been invited in with a camera crew to chat to the First Couple and see the Christmas decorations.
Then there's the White House website and the constant use of Flickr and Facebook to keep the public up-to-date on the First Family's every move, from what Michelle is growing in her organic vegetable garden to the latest footage of Bo, the First Pooch. The presidency itself is in danger of turning into a reality show, says critics.
Michael Hirschorn, a reality TV producer who runs Ish Entertainment, said recently that when the new President was campaigning for office, "the Obamas were pitched as kind of a reality show to the public. We'd hear about his dinners with Michelle and we felt like we knew them.
"But now that he is in office, there is a danger of the mystique going away. The problem with social media and constant video is that it flows like water and reduces everything to the same level. Not much of it is special, and it all becomes content, even if it's the president."
Lawrence O'Donnell, a producer and writer on The West Wing felt that Obama's recent speech at West Point, where he finally unveiled his long-awaited Afghan war strategy, illustrated the problem.
"In the context of a president that you see all the time and hear from all the time, how important does the speech at West Point, the most important speech of his presidency, become?" he asked. "It becomes like weather reports, just another of many messages from the president."
David Carr, who writes on media issues for the New York Times, said earlier this month that it was little surprise the Virginia couple Michaele and Taleq Salahi inveigled their way into the state dinner in November. "The gate-crashers weren't so much invading the Obamas' privacy as trying to grab some of the abundant media limelight already there," he wrote.
"The White House, something of an imperial palace under President Bush, has become the most camera-infested place since Big Brother."
Carr recalled that it was Jackie Kennedy who first brought the TV cameras into the White House for anything other than a press conference, allowing CBS News a lengthy tour. But the visit was carefully scripted and the tone light years away from Michelle Obama chatting with Jay Leno.
"Mrs. Kennedy may have been impossibly glamorous and done her share of image management, but she had a chaste relationship with the camera and the public. 'I want to live my life, not record it,' she said." ·
Comments are now closed on this article