Obama's Sunday Circuit

The president was in the hot seat, but columnists say it's the media that looked silly after Obama's Sunday talk show blitz

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President Obama didn't make much news when he appeared on five Sunday morning shows to pitch his health care plan--besides the unprecedented feat of doing five Sunday shows, that is (snubbing only Fox News). Columnists proclaimed the president's media blitz unlikely to change many minds about health care. One thing Obama did accomplish: His "highly orchestrated" appearances made mincemeat of the media, reducing each network's influence and revealing the weaknesses of television journalism. Here's how Obama showed the media who's boss.

  • 'A Remarkably Overt Display of Media Management,' said Alessandra Stanley at The New York Times. "No one shifted an armchair, moved a flower arrangement or asked an unexpected question." Stanley said the appearances were, "as tightly choreographed -- and eerily similar -- as the multiple Magritte bowler-hatted men milling in the remake of 'The Thomas Crown Affair.'" And she says Obama proved yet again that he can stay on message, even when the media would rather he not. "Mr. Obama demonstrated that the news media are catnip to presidents," Stanley wrote.
  • The President Spoke Softly and Carried a Big Stick, said James Warren at The Atlantic. "Like Irving Kristol, Obama proved an anti-Beck on this TiVo-challenging morning. And, as Kristol's own legacy proves, every once in while the understated can wield more influence than we might imagine." Warren said the president made "media culture" look garish. "[His demeanor] was so utterly contrary to the media culture which, he again reiterated, he finds so wayward in its heralding of the loud and extreme," Warren wrote. "There he was: quiet, modest, thoughtful, willing to diplomatically engage while still being firm."
  • Obama Called Out the Media for Fueling Conflict, Howard Kurtz wrote at The Washington Post.
Obama made clear his frustration with the media's coverage in the Sunday interviews. To Schieffer: "The 24-hour news cycle and cable television and blogs and all this, they focus on the most extreme elements on both sides. They can't get enough of conflict; it's catnip to the media right now."

Kurtz says that's an exaggeration, but admits that "in this 'You lie!' age, Obama has a point." Still, he thinks Obama risks playing into the media frenzy and overexposing himself. "The more he waltzes onto every show this side of 'Dancing With the Stars,' the more he risks being seen as just another programming element, his words quickly fading into the electronic ether."

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