Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I gather that this is the biggest political story in America right now:

When the even-keeled and cool President Obama gets prickly in public, it never goes unnoticed.

For Obama, who has carefully cultivated a reputation of easily managing confrontations with people who disagree with him, these moments are as rare as they are revealing of the person behind the presidency.

So it's no surprise that Washington took notice ... after a tense interview with a Texas TV reporter on Monday....

And, well, I can understand, because it sounds as if Obama was really, really rude and imperious:

"Let me finish. Let me finish. May I finish?" [he] said the first time it happened....

"Let me finish," [he] repeated a moment later... "Let me finish, please. Please. You ask the questions, and I'll answer them, if you don't mind."

...No, wait -- that wasn't President Obama -- that was President Bush in 2004, being interviewed by Carole Coleman of Ireland's RTE.

That was in the midst of the interview -- an interview in which Bush hectored and harangued Coleman, then took umbrage when she tried (insistently but civilly) to interrupt a couple of his monologues. And the subjects (which Bush was trying to dismiss) couldn't have been more important: Abu Ghraib, the failure to find WMDs in Iraq, and the violence in that country that showed no signs of abating.

Here's the clip:

By contrast, here's the Obama clip. He saves his testiness for the aftermath of the interview, when he says to the reporter, "Let me finish my answers next time we do an interview, all right?"

Bush not only hectored the reporter, his White House whined to the Irish government:

THE White House has lodged a complaint with the Irish Embassy in Washington over RTE journalist Carole Coleman's interview with US President George Bush.

Wake me when the Obama White House lodges a formal complaint with the state of Texas -- or, given the fact that WFAA isn't publicly owned, with the Belo Corporation, which owns the station.

And I am wrong to regard this, from Politico, as an absurd misreading:

On Twitter on Tuesday morning, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer took the bait by responding to the interview...

Pfeiffer was asked by Time reporter Michael Scherer, "So will WFAA's Brad Watson get another interview one day?"

Instead of quickly taking the high road, Pfeiffer suggested that Watson may truly be out in the cold after irritating the president. And he did it by revealing yet another trick of Washington communications: playing one news outlet against its rival.

"Right around the time we do our next interview with @TIME. I am kidding ... or am I. @Newsweek is on the other line," Pfeiffer responded.

But isn't it obvious that Obama will make himself available to Time at some point in the near future, so that's hardly a real threat?

Obama's likely reaction to the incident is to go out of his way to make peace with this reporter. He'll bend over backwards to appear reasonable. That's him.

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