Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Saturday, January 30, 2010


(Photo: Saul Loeb/Getty @ A. Sullivan's blog)

I watched a remarkable event yesterday.  President Obama traveled Friday to a House Republican retreat in Baltimore, MD, to engage in a lively, robust question and answer session with House GOP members.  Mr. Obama stood his ground for an hour, answered each question thoughtfully, factually, and took responsibility by conceding the failure to televise the health negotiations.  "It's a legitimate criticism," President Obama said.  "So on that one, I take responsibility."

And for the trolls stuck on the one note childish "Teleprompter!" meme, there was no teleprompter, no cue cards.  The president used his powers of intellect and thorough understanding of policy to debate and answer the questions put to him by the GOP House members. For over an hour.

FOX News--apparently aware of how informed, relaxed, and reasonable the president looked in this venue--cut away from the Q&A in the middle of an answer that Mr. Obama was giving.  Mustn't promote anything that might make this man look good, even if it means making your propagandist station look spiteful and jealous.  But we know FOX is not a news channel, so why expect them to act like one.

At 1:11 p.m. ET — when there was still 20 minutes left to go — Fox News decided to cut away and begin its commentary. Anchor Trace Gallagher’s immediate reaction was that Obama was being too “combative” and “lecturing” — like he was at his State of the Union address. Correspondent Bret Baier agreed, saying there was “a little bit of that,” but conceded that there was a “decent…give-and-take on the specifics.”

h/t ThinkProgress

No matter.  The reviews are flooding in and they all praise the effort both sides made at talking with and listening to what each side had to say. And the reviews give a lot of the credit to President Obama.

“Accepting the invitation to speak at the House GOP retreat may turn out to be the smartest decision the White House has made in months,” writes the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder. “Debating a law professor is kind of foolish — the Republican House Caucus has managed to turn Obama’s weakness — his penchant for nuance — into a strength. Plenty of Republicans asked good and probing questions, but Mike Pence, among others, found their arguments simply demolished by the president.”

Ezra Klein sarcastically writes, “Apparently, transparency sounds better in press releases than it does in practice.”
h/t ThinkProgress

On a side note, Luke Russert, an MSNBC reporter, revealed that a GOP insider told him that they should never have allowed this exchange to be televised (apparently it made the Mr. Obama look, well, very presidential and not at all like a guy who's trying to destroy this country, as many conservative trolls who visit this blog hysterically claim).

RUSSERT: Tom Cole — former head of the NRCC, congressman from Oklahoma — said, “He scored many points. He did really well.” Barack Obama, for an hour and a half, was able to refute every single Republican talking point used against him on the major issues of the day. In essence, it was almost like a debate where he was front and center for the majority of it. … One Republican said to me, off the record, behind closed doors: “It was a mistake that we allowed the cameras to roll like that. We should not have done that.

Here's Andrew Sullivan's take on it:

I've just watched the president address the Republican retreat in Baltimore. Address is not quite the right word, because it was a genuine - and remarkable - conversation between Obama and his political opponents - transparently on CSPAN. I don't remember similar public events of this length and this informality and candor in the past, but I may be forgetting some. But the theme was very straightforward: the president does not expect total GOP support on everything he is trying to do; but he does believe that the tactical oppositionism and electioneering that infects our current politics is making it impossible for the republic to grapple with the real and pressing problems we face.

He was especially good on entitlements, the need to reform them - and the impossibility of doing so if every time someone tries to they are hazed for "raising taxes/killing jobs" or "cutting medicine/killing seniors". This applies to both parties, of course. But it has been pretty brutal from the GOP this past year.

But here's the key thing: Obama is best at this. He is best at defusing conflict; he is superb at engaging civilly with his opponents. It's part of his legacy - I remember how many conservatives respected him at the Harvard Law Review. But he needs to do more of this, even though he may get nothing in return. Why? Because unless the tone changes, unless the pure obstructionism and left-right ding-dong cycle stops, we are on a fast track to catastrophe.

That was the core message of Obama in the election. It was one of my core reasons for backing him over Clinton - because he has the capacity to reach out this way. I remain depressed at the prospects for a breakthrough, but this was good politics and good policy. More, please. Do this every month. Maybe over the long haul, the poison of the past has to be worked through with Obama as therapist in chief.


Lesle Parsley said...

It was indeed masterful. It was a smart move on Obama's part. He has more brains in his little finger than that entire room put together. If the GOP continues to be the Party of No, I think they will be shooting themselves in the foot. Of course this doesn't include the Tea Buggers. Nice job.

Shaw Kenawe said...


It was masterful. And the exchange demolishes the trolls' who repeat the "teleprompter" meme.

For 90 straight minutes, Mr. Obama answered the GOP questions with knowledge, grace, and humor.

Obama haters will see his performance as "lying"--their only reaction to anything the man does.

Of course, it is a juvenile reaction without any merit. The overwhelming reviews of the House GOP and President Obama encounter is a positive one for both sides.

libhom said...

It's nice that Obama got to hang out with his fellow Republicans. I suspect they will spend lots of time talking about how they can cut programs for middle class and poor Americans while supporting an illegal, wasteful, and incredibly expensive war in Iraq.

Not a Troll said...

This country's lucky to have an intelligent grown-up as its president.

It drives the idiot trolls crazy, though, doesn't it?


Arthurstone said...

There's some truth in what libhom writes. I am very disappointed the President hasn't worked harder to end the US occupation of Iraq & extricate ouselves from an unwinnable war in Afghanistan. That said I'm not suite ready to lump Obama in with the likes of weepy John Boehner.

But, as always, I vastly amused by the GOP calls for 'bi-partisanship'.

Happens whenever they are out of a majority.

Arthurstone said...

Make that 'quite' ready.

dmarks said...

"...unwinnable war in Afghanistan..."

It's quite winnable, with the right policy. Hopefully the President has it.

Arthurstone said...

'Winning' in Afghanistan. That would obviously include legalizing drugs in the United States. And that is never going to happen in my lifetime.

Here's just bout the most optimistic article I can find.

Peter Bergen is pretty good but even he can't muster much enthusiasm for this misadventure.

He writes:" Measures like these would help return Afghanistan to something like the state it was before the Soviets invaded in 1979: a relatively peaceful country slowly building itself into something more than a purely agricultural economy."

That's setting the bar pretty low. A return to tribal factionalism with a huge opium crop and women treated as chattel.

Heck. Sounds like now.

Dave Miller said...

Shaw, this was remarkable. I am in Oaxaca and heard about it and immediately went to an internet cafe to watch it.

All I can say is WOW. First to be in the middle of a foreign country and be able to see and hear my President, and then to see just how well this all played out.

Perhaps, even if one cannot applaud Obama's policies, they can appreciate his openness and candor at this meeting.

I hope this sets a standard for the future. Our Presidents taking questions from the opposition party openly, on television.

I think if Sarah Palin was to agree to something like this, I'd pay to see it.

dmarks said...

Here's hoping that Obama outperforms Arthurstone's pessimism.

Shaw Kenawe said...


Agreed. Glad you were able to see this.

His staff should take a look at the glowing reviews over this endeavor and have Mr. Obama appear in this type of venue more often.

As for Palin, she has talent, but it isn't in speaking extemporaneously and in depth on any policy issues.

There's a reason McCain's people would not allow her to go on any Sunday morning talk shows, like Meet the Press. It would have been a bigger disaster than what the McCain campaign suffered.

Arthurstone said...

It's good to live in hope dmarks.

But I wouldn't be the house on a happy outcome in Afghanistan anytime soon.

Ralphie said...

President Obama used his communications skills and his thorough grasp of the facts to demonstrate to the American people that he is the right leader for this time in our history. If there is any hope of reversing the political gridlock that has put political gain ahead of public service, President Obama had the right stuff to get the job done.

Sue said...

It was the highlight of my week that's for sure. President Obama was strong, commanding of the room and very presidential. Someone of a conservative persuasion called the performance weak, can you imagine? That is insane, for someone to call Obama weak after taking down the room of rethugs, that's pure jealousy!

rllr said...

Sue said...

It was the highlight of my week that's for sure. President Obama was strong, commanding of the room and very presidential..

LOL! I predicted this last fall! I wrote in my own blog that this was going to happen.. I also predicted many times that it would not be Republicans who would kill the bill, but the Democrats themselves! The sad thing is that they nearly did force this thing into law, but the new year came. 435 House seats are up for election. About 1/3 of the U.S. Senate is up for election.Three major election losses + 2010 election year + VERY ANGRY electorate = no health reform bill and a chance to try and blame it on the Republicans.
This president did not just roll over one morning and discover there were Republicans in Congress. He has ignored them and marginalized them while they are winning elections! If there is one single thing you can count on from a politician it is to survive and stay in power. It is not looking very promising for these Democrats after all this!

Anonymous said...
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Shaw Kenawe said...

"Three major election losses + 2010 election year + VERY ANGRY electorate = no health reform bill and a chance to try and blame it on the Republicans."

Hardly. But that's a good spin. And remember, governors don't vote on federal legislation. Scott Brown? It was a blow to see him replace Ted Kennedy, but in reality he's only 1% of the voting Senate, and still a minority in the Senate.

The Democrats are in the majority. And Brown's election possibly--just possibly woke them up and may nudge them into using their majority powers.

I see the glass as half full, while you, the opposition, naturally want to look at it as half empty.

BTW, Mr. Obama scored big time yesterday with the public in his ability to walk into the "lion's den" and come out looking damn good.

Even the Republicans have admitted they should never have allowed cameras in the room so that the public could see that their president has a command of the issues, can give as good as he gets, all the while exhibiting good humor and grace.

rwnobles said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Shaw Kenawe said...


I deleted your comment and copied and pasted it into my post "Rush Limbaugh is a Racist," since it had to do with that subject and not Mr. Obama's Q&A on Friday.

josettes said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Shaw Kenawe said...

To the idiot troll josette, who also is stealing someone else's name:

I found the entire comment you copied and pasted here over at the Washington Post's website.

Don't you numbskulls have the ability to argue your own points? Are you so intellectually challenged that you have to use someone else's words and ideas?

Is that the best you can do? Copy and paste?


Shaw Kenawe said...

Anonymous troll.

You did the same thing as the other idiot troll.

And it's a good bet that you're the same josette troll, since your comment came from the same website.

Wassamadda? Too stupid to use your own words?