The most interesting thing you can watch today (updated x2)

Obama's Q-and-A session today with the House GOP members, meeting in Baltimore, as shown on C-Span. Program info here; embedded player below. Good-government types often moan that the U.S. should have some equivalent to the lively "Prime Minister's Question Time" from Westminster. This is quite a worthy counterpart. And, not incidentally from the White House's point of view, perhaps the most effective performance by Obama since taking office.

[Housekeeping update: The clip I originally embedded here was to the full 86-minute session. That started crashing, presumably because of limits on the C-Span servers. The embed-link has subsequently been disabled. I then embedded another clip -- but that proves to be only to a couple-minute highlight reel. So if you go to the main C-Span program page, here or here, you'll be able to watch the full broadcast. Thanks to reader J. Stein for tip about the embed problem.] [Update-update: Again via J Stein and Salon, an embedded MSNBC link to the Q-and-A part of the program. The time counts in the paragraph below apply to the C-Span version, not this. Interesting nonetheless. Starts with a bracing exchange on deficits, stimulus, taxes.]

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He starts moving out of mere opening-remarks mode at about time 7:00; more fully so by around 9:30, followed by a few minutes of re-explaining his health and economic problems; a plea for a different approach to governing starting around 17:30; and then the Q-and-A for real starting around 19:30. Too many highlights after that to mention. But, as a sample, check the exchange starting around 31:00.

I realize that all of my Atlantic colleagues have already noted this performance. In the interests of completeness, I mention it too. If this clip becomes as widely circulated as -- oh, I don't know, the Rev. Wright "God Damn America!" clip from two years ago -- I think it could have some long-term effect on how people think about Obama, about the GOP, about the issues, and maybe even about our very ability to deal with difficult public problems. Or maybe I'm just dreaming. Either way, this is a very interesting 86 minutes of public theater.

Addenda: Obama should do this more often, and with members of both parties. Also, I would like to hear from spokesmen for the once-strong "Obama can't possibly think without his teleprompter" camp after watching more than an hour of live Q-and-A.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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