Reporter's Notebook

Chessmaster or Pawn: Judgments on Obama's Effectiveness
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Dispatches by James Fallows and others, and responses from readers, on the nature of leadership in the Obama era, in response to his 2012 cover story “Obama, Explained” and his December, 2015 post, “Obama: Chessmaster, not Pawn.”
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How Politicians Deal With TV News, from Obama to Cheney to LBJ

Memo from Vice President Cheney’s advance team, requiring that rooms where he stayed must have “All Televisions tuned to FOX News.” As reported in 2006 by The Smoking Gun, and to the best of my knowledge not withdrawn or disproven.

Without much set-up or padding, herewith some of the slew of holiday-week responses to last night’s Note, on why President Obama doesn’t watch TV news, and why no president should.

It could have been worse. A reader notes:

Imagine the reaction if the President watched Al Jazeera America as I do.

It could have been better. A representative sample of the anti-Obama response that has come in:

Why would you watch the news when every day another story is told about how your failed policies are destroying the country. Instead he spends his time gazing in mirrors.

How other leaders did it: Part I, Dick Cheney. Many readers wrote to point me toward a leaked memo The Smoking Gun reprinted back in 2006, saying that then-Vice President Cheney required “All Televisions tuned to FOX News” in any room where he would stay. That’s the memo you see above. One reader’s gloss:

Apropos of your post on Obama understanding the worthlessness of cable news, recall the leaked document describing then-Vice President Cheney’s insistence that all TVs in his hotel room be...  tuned to Fox News.

Sort of explains the distinctions between the two men in a nutshell.

Another reader says of the memo,

So not only embracing the chatter, but the echo chamber as well.

How Other Leaders Did It: Part II, LBJ. A reader in Texas sends in this note:

Interesting comparison is to tour the “TX Whitehouse” of LBJ to see the row of TV’s in one room with photos of all blaring at once.  Lot of good that did as he, LeMay, and McNamara sat around next to the Pedernales river deciding who to bomb…

Yesterday morning I had an interesting (from my POV) talk with Kerri Miller of Minnesota Public Radio, on the by-definition impossible task of assessing how the Obama administration’s record will be seen five or ten years from now. The podcast is here. You can tell that I’ve had a cold, but at least Kerri Miller sounds healthy and on top of her game!

This discussion happened 24 hours before Obama’s presentation this morning on gun violence and possible steps against it. I regretfully stand by what I wrote several years ago, and said on MPR 24 hours ago: that trying to change this most pernicious aspect of “American exceptionalism” is itself a case-of-one political outlier.

The United States, unlike other countries, already has countless millions of guns in circulation. Unlike other countries, it has a Second Amendment, misconstrued as it has been. Unlike other countries, it has a substantial minority that will vote on the basis of this issue to the exclusion of all others. Changing climate and energy policy in the United States is hard and slow, but it will happen. Changing health-care policy, ditto. On gun policy I’m most pessimistic.

And to round this off, plus illustrating something about the state of the GOP race, check out Ted Cruz’s response to Obama’s gun statement today.