Sunday, September 20, 2009

Obama "Does" the Sunday Shows

I could only make myself watch two of the five shows where Barack Obama is appearing today. I watched NBC's David Gregory interview Obama on Meet the Press; then I watched George Stephanopoulos on ABC's This Week. What was interesting to me, maybe because I had made my own list of questions prior to watching the shows, was how unimaginative and how alike Gregory's and Stephanopoulos's list of questions were, if not exactly in the way they were asked, at least in subject: health care, race, the war in Afghanistan.

I did my best to copy the sense of each question. Most of these are either direct quotes or they are pretty close.

Gregory's major health care question: As you assess the situation, how do you approach the health care debate? [Then he continued with something like, do you still view this as a bipartisan issue. . . ]

Obama's answer: Obama used this question to lay out his "plan" which (and I'm trying to be fair, here) honestly contained nothing new. He talked about his "core principles" and he used one of his favorite lines, "We've already agreed to 80% of what's in the bill." Then he added that Republicans are "mis-characterizing our efforts."

Gregory tries to get creative and ask something "new" about health care (I guess): You said during the campaign, "In light of the huge challenges, we're going to have to make hard choices." What are the hard choices that you are now asking the American people to make? And who are you going to say "No" to in order to get a health care bill passed.

Obama's answer: People have an obligation to get health care, just as they have an obligation to get car insurance. Then Obama repeats that "doctors and nurses" support his plan. [As a "retired" R.N., I know that that is One Big Fat Lie.] Mentions medical malpractice--not the end-all-be-all. He ends by saying there are a "whole series of Republican ideas that we will adopt." OK, I'll play along--like what?

Gregory attempts a follow-up: You're not really saying to the Left that they have to accept tort reform. What are you saying to the Left--what will they have to accept that will be a "hard choice."

Obama's answer: Blah blah, blah blah, both sides are going to have to give some. Wow, Obama definitely decided that in these five Sunday interviews he was going to make some major news.

Gregory's question about race: Among your harshest critics is the view somehow that government is out of control. Your campaign said that you would move beyond race. Do you agree with Jimmy Carter, that most people on the Right disagree with you because of race?

Obama's answer: Obama really ducked the "race" part of the question, making the majority of his answer about the debate people want to have about the proper role of government. "We all have an obligation to conduct the conversation in a civil way. My proposals are well within the mainstream of ideas that people have been talking about for years."

Gregory tries again: Are you saying that having the former President [Carter] and others [Gregory named names, I just didn't catch them], to speak this way, is counterproductive?

Obama's answer: (This is pretty close, although not an exact quote)--The media loves to have this connversation; it's "catnip" to the media. This debate is not about race, it's about people being worried about how the government should operate. It's important that we stay focused on solving problems.

Gregory's question: Nancy Pelosi said publicly that she's worried about the tone of the debate leading to violence. Do you worry about that?

Obama's answer: We have an obligation in Washington as leaders to send a strong message that we can disagree without being disagreeable. Caricaturing the other side is always a problem. In a 24-hour news cycle--what gets you on the news is being rude. Is it just me, or is there a big difference between Pelosi's "violence" and Obama's "rude"?

Gregory's question: Afghanistan. We've been there for 8 years. Are we committed to this war for an indefinite period of time, or do we have a deadline for withdrawal?

Obama's answer: We were "adrift" when I came in [the standard "Bush left us in a mess" line]. We are going to do a top to bottom review [My friends in business say that when they hear this line, it means "We have no idea what we're doing."]. We are gonna see how this is fitting our core goal ["core goals" for Afghanistan, "core principles" for ObamaCare--seems to be a theme]. The question we need to be focused on is, how do we dismantle Al-Qaida? [Nothing about the Taliban?]

Gregoy tries again to get something substantive about Afghanistan: Are you skeptical about sending more troops?

Obama's answer: I'm always skeptical. Blah blah, blah blah. The question I ask is how does this advance America's national security interests? That's the question I'm constantly asking. It's important to match strategy to resources. More hard-hitting news from this interview. PLATITUDES, Barry.

Analysis: Snooooze.

So I then I went to listen to George Stephanopoulos at ABC's This Week. My overall impression was this: Stephanopoulos knows Obama better than David Gregory knows him. George seemed more comfortable with getting into a give-and-take on the Q and A; even so, I don't think George did any better than David Gregory did in getting real answers out of Barack Obama. Again, these are approximations of what was said, not necessarily quotes.

Stephanopoulos's question: During your campaign, you repeatedly said that no one in the middle-class would get a tax increase. But even people in your own party, [John D] Rockefeller, for example, say health care would result in a tax increase. Do you agree that this bill is a tax increase?

Obama's answer: Obama said that middle-class people are mainly concerned about whether health care reforms are affordable. There's a increase taking place right now: health premiums are up 5.5% from last year. If we don't do anything. . . Blah, blah, blah. The principles I put forward, very clearly: affordable health insurance; insurance reforms that give you more security; deficit neutral; start driving down our costs in the long-term. 80% of what I'd like to see is already in all of the bills making their way through the Congress. We will be working on it over the next several weeks.

So that's the list of his "core principals"--the same list he gave to David Gregory. We can expect that these are now ObamaCare talking points, and we'll be hearing every pundit out there using this list. It also sounds as if Obama thinks (or would like us to think that he thinks--I can never tell with this guy) that a health care bill is something that will be in the can within several weeks.

Stephanopoulos and Obama then got into a sort of go-nowhere back-and-forth about the meaning of "tax increase," with George even quoting a dictionary definition to Obama.

Stephanopoulos's question: You've said repeatedly that no one will lose what they have. Yet cuts in Medicare Advantage, if that's what people have, will force people to lose what they have.

Obama's answer: Change is hard. These private HMO's who work with Medicare, like the one you mention, they're getting 14% more overpayment than regular Medicare. There's no competitive bidding on the process. Will the insurers squawk? You bet.

Stephanopoulos mentions Senator Bill Nelson's (D., Florida) amendment that would make sure that anyone who now has Medicare Advantage would not lose their coverage. Here's the exchange, in detail.

Obama ended with one of his signature  lines: "We're not going to take one dollar out of the Medicare trust fund." [Just wondering--could that be because the "Medicare trust fund" is broke and there isn't one dollar to be had from it?]

Then Stephanopoulos tried his own question about race: The issue of race constantly being injected into issue of health care. I know you disagree. Does it frustrate you when your own supporters see race where it doesn't exist?

Obama's answer: It's hard for people to separate out race in a debate within the backdrop of American society vs. race The debate about health care for the overwhelming number of people in this country comes down to this question: "Is this going to help me?" Some are asking whether government can do anything right. It goes beyond taxes. There was a running debate--during FDR, during Ronald Reagan--a noisy debate. I'm proposing a very modest attempt [my emphasis] to make sure hard working Americans will have the health care they can count on. This isn't a radical plan. Some opponents believe that somehow we're vastly expanding government and taking over the economy. I think they're wrong. Sometimes the media encourages the outliers. The easiest way to get on television today is by being rude. If you say something outrageous--blah, blah. So he repeats what he said on NBC.

Stephanopoulos attempts a follow-up: Have some of your allies made it easier--handing ammunition to the opposition--ACORN, for example?

Obama's answer: SERIOUSLY--he SERIOUSLY said that he DIDN'T KNOW that ACORN gets government funding. OK, so this is just plain stupid. Either Obama is stupid, or he believes the American people are stupid. To me, this should be the headline, so I'll post the YouTube video:

After that cock-and-bull invention from Obama, it took me a minute or two to regain my composure; I had thrown both of my shoes at the TV screen. That's when Stephanopoulus went on to ask Obama about Afghanistan: During the campaign, you were for a flexible timeline in Iraq. Do you support the same for Afghanistan?

Obama's made-up lie (oops, sorry--reply): When we came in, there had been drift in our strategy [translation: blame Bush]. I wanted us to refocus on why we're there. We're there because we can't allow al-Qaida to operate with impunity. What we had was a classic case of mission creep. I wanted to narrow our focus. I approved 21,000 additional troops to secure the election. Now I want another review. I'll take all this information and test whatever resources we have against our strategy. Skeptical audience--namely me.

Taliban??? Taliban anybody?

On some level, I actually feel for these interviewers. Here's Stephanopoulus trying to get creative with a question. I guess one "creative" question per interview is the standard: During John Kennedy's first summit with Krushchev, Krushchev cleaned Kennedy's clock. What's the moment in the last 8 months where you stepped back and said, "I have to step up my game."

Obama's answer. Obama quickly denied any reason on his part to "step up his game" with international leaders. His example: He needed to step up in terms of talking with the American people on issues like health care. Somehow I'm not breaking through. It's a complicated issue with so many moving parts. No matter how much I've tried to keep it digestible, people can't get their arms around it.

Translation: The American people are just too dumb to understand what I want to do for them on issues like health care.

Update: I just read through this post again. Obama's answers are consistently inane and void of meaningful content. I'm not a business person, but I'd like to imagine that if a CEO went before their board and was asked questions relating to a major position and gave answers like these, then that CEO would be fired. One comparison that comes to mind is of people testifying before a Senate committee. These kinds of answers would be hopelessly inadequate in front of the most junior Senator--NO ONE in their right mind would think they could get away with such content-less crap.

My assessment is this: Obama is one part fool and one part snake-oil salesman. He's foolish enough to think that these kinds of answers are adequate, and he's slick enough to try to pass them off. I honestly think Obama still believes the American people are going to buy his schtick. We bought it during the campaign, and he thinks nothing has changed.

No comments: