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Questions and Non-Answers with the President

March 18, 2010

It’s a mystery to the French Cowboy how people can say that Obama is a sympathetic guy. Whenever he talks to the public, but especially during interviews, Obama’s attitude covers the spectrum from making lame jokes to being condescending to being testy and impatient. Presumably because President Obama sees no need in hiding his distaste for Fox News, his interview with Monsieur Baier is on the lower end of the likability-meter even by Obama standards. But that doesn’t mean that the interview is an untypical case. You could even argue that precisely because the President has a history of skirmishes with Fox News that he should try to make an extra good impression on such an occasion.

Baier is doing a good job on the other hand. It is not easy to ask the tough questions while also staying respectful. (You may remember that Katie Couric arguably succeeded in the first, but utterly failed in the second task when interviewing Sarah Palin.) Obama answering every question with a long non-sequitur doesn’t make the challenge any easier.

In theory, the job of a reporter is to ask the questions the inquiring audience itself would ask the interviewee. By this standard, Baier was outstanding. It is very often the case – and very unfortunately so – that journalists prefer asking questions which allow them to present themselves in a good light. Depending on their personal value system this sometimes leads them very far from being an agent for the public. (In my opinion this is also part of the reason why news media are losing their customers: journalists who report only for themselves and their colleagues by whom they want to be esteemed are not of interest for people outside of the media’s microcosm.) But Baier clearly did his best to represent the Fox News audience which is exactly what every good journalist would have done. It is also exactly why Obama had such difficulties containing his anger. He doesn’t want to be reminded of that part of America that doesn’t believe in his dubious claims about what ObamaCare will do. Instead he reacts to Baier’s quoting questions sent in from viewers with another pathetic “I’ve got a bracelet, too!” moment: ‘My 40k emails per day beat your 80k, Baier!’

And so it went. Baier tried to get Obama give his clear opinion on the Slaughter rule, the arm-twisting in Congress and the special deals. Obama avoided answering those questions and instead listed the alleged benefits the passing of ObamaCare will bring. It seems that this is his way of saying that a majority of Americans, including all congressional Republicans and some Democrats, are just too stupid to see the what’s good for them.

A truly hypocritical answer was Obama dismissing responsibility for the $200 billion doctors fix as a Bushdidit, while simultaneously implying that it is somehow a God-given that he, Obama, cannot be possibly asked to stop. But then again, we’ve become very used to this kind of logic from this president.

The best part probably is when Obama says that “by the time the vote has taken place” we will know what’s in the bill. Vous voyez bien: no need to worry at all!

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