The president’s five-fecta of Sunday show interviews has come and gone, and, as with Barack Obama’s earlier address to a joint session of Congress, its effect will be short-lived and illusory.
Contrary to the White House’s argument that it was “road blocking” the coverage, the full Ginsberg (named after William Ginsberg, Monica Lewinsky’s attorney, who was the first to do five shows in one day) did not punch its healthcare message through the clutter.
In fact, it did the opposite. When the networks were allowed to use one clip on their Friday evening news broadcasts, all of them aired a question on race. The other news coming out of the interviews was Obama’s reticence to support Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request for additional troops for counterinsurgency operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Again, this does little to advance government-run healthcare, and it serves only to underscore (along with undercutting our Czech and Polish allies by removing planned missile defense installations in those countries) the signals of weakness and vacillation the administration is sending in the global war on terror.
What was the only healthcare news that came out of the interviews? That Obama stated a falsehood about the Senate Finance Committee healthcare bill. George Stephanopoulos pointed out that a mandate is a tax, according to dictionary definitions.
Obama dismissed the point. But the Sept. 14 New York Times reported that “Obama and most Democrats support a proposal that would require most Americans to carry health insurance. Under [Sen. Max] Baucus’ proposal, a family that went without coverage would be subject to a penalty of up to $3,800 a year,” the Times reported. This serves only to underscore that a media blitz can't solve the White House’s healthcare problem.
Obama’s presidency is beginning to resemble a Jerry Lewis telethon in which every day is Labor Day. During nine months in office, Obama has given 200 speeches, four prime-time news conferences, and two addresses to joint sessions of Congress, as well as granting 125 one-on-one media interviews.
By comparison, the famously loquacious Bill Clinton granted only 46 press interviews during the same period in his first term. Does he enjoy the spotlight too much? One wonders. Even a liberal like Bill Maher has urged Obama to quit posing for the cameras and do his job.
The Obama administration seems to think that the solution to every problem is another speech, another interview, another reinforcement of what at times appears to be a cult of personality. But overexposure cheapens the coinage of the realm of the presidency, demystifies the office and diminishes Obama’s stature, robbing him of the very influence he seeks over the legislative agenda.
When the president is more exposed than Paris Hilton, this is more than a political problem for Obama. It is a problem that plagues the institution of the presidency, and we are all the less for it.
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