April 20, 2011

PROBLEM FOR THE WHITE HOUSE: Local sit-down interviews are good, but threats to freeze out local reporters from White House access aren’t worth nearly as much as similar threats aimed at the White House press corps. And a local reporter who causes the President to lose his cool gets national attention. Now that Obama’s visibly vulnerable, the White House will have to worry about this kind of thing much more than it’s used to. My prediction: Much more vetting of the local interviewers. Can’t let the President go off-message. He doesn’t do well in those settings.

UPDATE: Prof. Stephen Clark writes:

The fact that Obama quickly gets lost in the weeds when he’s taken off message should put a big fat bull’s-eye on him for any of his opponents in his upcoming reelection campaign. A point I’ve made in other forums and repeat here is this: A sufficiently ruthless opponent would not defer to him but take any and every opportunity to discomfit him. What this, and similar episodes, shows is that he has never had to deal with a very public event, from which he cannot escape, in which he’s lost control and is being made to look bad. That thin veneer of cool would quickly melt. He doesn’t improvise well and doesn’t know when to stop digging: it’s tough when you believe deeply that you’re the smartest guy in the room. In fact, the person he least respects has the greatest opportunity here. Media mavens that run our so-called debates can be counted on to try to keep things predictable. Obama’s opponents should not accommodate that ruse.

Indeed.

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