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WaPo's Dana Milbank blasts "The Obama Show"

Washington Post writer Dana Milbank is no partisan Democrat-hater or friend of Republicans (remember his tacky stunt following Dick Cheney's 2006 hunting accident?) but he is merciless in his critique of yesterday's carefully scripted press conference by President Obama:

In his first daytime news conference yesterday, President Obama preempted "All My Children," "Days of Our Lives" and "The Young and the Restless." But the soap viewers shouldn't have been disappointed: The president had arranged some prepackaged entertainment for them.

After the obligatory first question from the Associated Press, Obama treated the overflowing White House briefing room to a surprise. "I know Nico Pitney is here from the Huffington Post," he announced.

Obama knew this because White House aides had called Pitney the day before to invite him, and they had escorted him into the room. They told him the president was likely to call on him, with the understanding that he would ask a question about Iran that had been submitted online by an Iranian. "I know that there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet," Obama went on. "Do you have a question?"


The use of planted questioners is a no-no at presidential news conferences, because it sends a message to the world -- Iran included -- that the American press isn't as free as advertised. But yesterday wasn't so much a news conference as it was a taping of a new daytime drama, "The Obama Show." Missed yesterday's show? Don't worry: On Wednesday, ABC News will be broadcasting "Good Morning America" from the South Lawn (guest stars: the president and first lady), "World News Tonight" from the Blue Room, and a prime-time feature with Obama from the East Room.

... During the eight years of the Bush administration, liberal outlets such as the Huffington Post often accused the White House of planting questioners in news conferences to ask preplanned questions. But here was Obama fielding a preplanned question asked by a planted questioner -- from the Huffington Post.

Pitney said the White House, though not aware of the question's wording, asked him to come up with a question about Iran proposed by an Iranian. And, as it turned out, he was not the only prearranged questioner at yesterday's show. Later, Obama passed over the usual suspects to call on Macarena Vidal of the Spanish-language EFE news agency. The White House called Vidal in advance to see whether she was coming and arranged for her to sit in a seat usually assigned to a financial trade publication. She asked about Chile and Colombia.

A couple of more questions and Obama called it a day. "Mr. President!" yelled Mike Allen of Politico. "May I ask about Afghanistan? No questions about Iraq or Afghanistan?"

Sorry: Those weren't prearranged.


It's worth remembering that when liberals caught even so much as a whiff of staging in a Bush Administration press conference, the gloves came off and things got bloody in a hurry. The full-throttle effort to smear Jeff Gannon (including viciously outing him as a homosexual, parading his former life as a gay escort, and subsequently destroying his career as a writer and journalist) for asking a friendly question at a 2005 Bush press conference stands as a sobering example of what happens when the natural, deeply ingrained, adversarial nature of mainstream press/Republican White House relations is challenged by an "outsider."

But these days, with Democrats firmly in control, carefully screened and planted questions seem to be the norm at Democrat-orchestrated political events. During the 2008 election, the starry-eyed Obama love expressed by the mainstream press caused many people (including myself) to wonder if the press had, by and large, simply given up its traditional role of "comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable." With the "good guys" finally in charge, the role of "adversary" suddenly seemed strangely unpatriotic to liberals.

I'm no fan of Dana Milbank, but it's nice to see someone step up and call the Democrats on their use of the mainstream press as nothing more than a PR and propaganda tool.


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Comments (22)

Hmmm...it's one thing when ... (Below threshold)

Hmmm...it's one thing when Howard Kurtz goes after them for this sort of thing, but quite another when you get a Milbank wondering aloud about it.

Andrea Mitchell brought it up during the campaign, but how many fake news conferences are the press going to go to? And if they can't ask a question, they're going to realize they're out of a job. Suddenly they might regain interest in doing their job. Some of them, anyway. Maybe realize there's something to this Dick Durbin thing. And, hey, maybe there's a story or two about R. Allen Stanford and his 2.5:1 Dem:GOP giving ratio to hash over. Why, they might even interview Gerald Walpin instead of just printing White House talking points about him.

"Let me say something about the message management. He didn't have reporters with him, he didn't have a press pool, he didn't do a press conference," either in Afghanistan or Iraq, noted Mitchell on the air. Instead Obama manufactured "what some would call 'fake interviews,' because they are not interviews from a journalist," Mitchell went on.

When Bush was president all... (Below threshold)
Adrian Browne:

When Bush was president all the complaints were about how the media was thwarting his awesome communicatin' skills. Now we have the opposite and still the complaints. Why the 180 degree turn?

so adrian, you see nothing ... (Below threshold)

so adrian, you see nothing wrong with all the planted questions then huh? And once more, Bush didn't rely solely on a telepromptor and scripted questions so enough with the bullshit that obama is some kind of great uhhhh, ummmmm, uhhhhh, orator.

all the complaints were... (Below threshold)

all the complaints were about how the media was thwarting his awesome communicatin' skills

Gosh, I'd love to see where someone made this argument, troll. Then I'll want to see where ALL the complaints were about that.

Put up or shut up. And stay on topic while you're at it.

This really is amazing.<br ... (Below threshold)

This really is amazing.
With a press corp that is really nothing more than a cheering section for Obama, he still has to manage/pre-arrange some questions?

As sycophantic as the MSM is, even they may end up noticing when they've been thrown under the bus by Obama. (quite the crowd there).

The Obama Show looks an awf... (Below threshold)

The Obama Show looks an awful lot like The Hugo Chavez Show. Watch the Hugo Chavez show on Frontline to see your future.

Yep, czars and all ...

The "planted" question was ... (Below threshold)

The "planted" question was by far the most difficult question he received. Even Fox's attempt was lame in comparison. Helen Thomas also asked him a pretty tough question which he answered shamelessly.

"The "planted" question was... (Below threshold)

"The "planted" question was by far the most difficult question he received."

And he didn't answer it.

I think all future pressers should be called "The Obama Show". At least people would be put on notice that it's just for entertainment.

The "planted" ques... (Below threshold)
The "planted" question was by far the most difficult question he received.

WTF? It's a planted question, it doesn't matter how easy or difficult the question is when you already know the question and can have a prepared answer.

Hey, remember when the left... (Below threshold)

Hey, remember when the left shat their pants with indignation when a journalist of questionable credentials, Jeff Gannon, was caught feeding softball questions to President Bush?

Good times, good times.

I have yet to see a news co... (Below threshold)
arcman Author Profile Page:

I have yet to see a news conference where he hasn't had the questions pre-planned. What bothers me most is the fact that if the press had done their job, we would not have had a "President Obama". No other candidate, Democrat or Republican, would have ever gotten away with spending millions to hide his college records; his Illinois state senate records, his past drug use (per his own admission), his lack of friends from high school and college, his lack of any kind of a paper trail, and, yes, even the birth certificate. His election was a joke, and we are now all paying for it.

"When Bush was president... (Below threshold)

"When Bush was president all the complaints were about how the media was thwarting his awesome communicatin' skills."

What the hell are you talking about?

I await a "not favored" rep... (Below threshold)
Codekeyguy Author Profile Page:

I await a "not favored" reporter filing for "divorce". It will be nasty.
And if any "real" reporters are sill in the room, I hope a vestage of a spine surfaces.

I read Milbank's Washington... (Below threshold)

I read Milbank's Washington Post column online. The comments to the Post are extremely interesting. The left have no problem eating their own when it comes to criticizing The One. And the only excuse they can seem to muster is that "Bush did it".

The question was a cool con... (Below threshold)

The question was a cool concept- to actually hear the concerns of an Iranian, but the fact that it seemed (and was) so pre-meditated was painful to watch. Althought it might not have been a true pre-planned thing because Obama, quite frankly, didn't handle it that well.


One other thing - <bl... (Below threshold)

One other thing -

The full-throttle effort to smear Jeff Gannon...

How is accurately describing Jeff Guckert's career as a gay whore smearing? He took money. For sex. With dudes. Pointing that out is not "smearing."

jp2, Bag up your shi... (Below threshold)

Bag up your shiny objects, get back on the
topic of this thread.

JP2 - you a homophobe or so... (Below threshold)

JP2 - you a homophobe or something?

Near as I can tell, it was a victimless 'crime', that had pretty much nothing to do with his job.

Are you grabbing all the outrage again, you greedy bastard?

The D.C. Metroliner crash i... (Below threshold)

The D.C. Metroliner crash is a metaphor for
Obama's rush-rush policies in his power-grab.
Give this guy an inch and he's pocketing
the mile. He's got his pedal to the metal
and a one-track mind....a very focused, one
track mind. And a lot of sycophants greasing
the rails. Could be a lot of "unavoidable"
accidents with this guy at the controls.

The D.C. Metroline... (Below threshold)
The D.C. Metroliner crash is a metaphor for Obama's rush-rush policies in his power-grab.

It's a metaphor for a lot of things. Think, "Snakes on a Train".

I saw that one time demacra... (Below threshold)

I saw that one time demacratic canadate ADLEE STEVENSON once prempted I LOVE LUCY fora commencment speech and that was probibly one of the reasons he lost to ike

Flu-bird, that was probably... (Below threshold)

Flu-bird, that was probably the most insightful comments you've ever made here.






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