David Carr on the Fishbowl White House

What it means when the highest office in the world becomes reality TV

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We take it for granted that transparency in government is a good thing, and President Obama's promise and practice of openness have won him acclaim. But somewhere between the ceaselessly updating White House Flickr feed, the media furor over White House party-crashers Michaele and Tareq Salahi, and Michelle Obama's recent Jay Leno appearance, New York Times media columnist David Carr had enough. Carr worries, "the presidency seems less threatened by the incursion of a reality show than running an administration that is in danger of becoming one."

One of the downsides of having a president who is also Celebrity in Chief is that it creates the impression that the leader of the free world is part of a milieu that is more TMZ than C-SPAN. In an effort to remain connected to the social media world that was so much a part of his electoral victory, the Obama administration may be guilty of a very contemporary common offense: Oversharing.

"In the context of a president that you see all the time and hear from all the time, how important does the speech at West Point, the most important speech of his presidency, become?" asks Lawrence O'Donnell, a producer and writer on "The West Wing," among other projects, and an analyst on MSNBC. "It becomes like weather reports, just another of many messages from the president." [...]

I like that the current president gets out of the bubble, that he enjoys a burger, and is willing to walk back into the White House with a greasy go-bag for the staff. I'm not sure being able to watch it all unfold is good for his presidency.

Carr's primary concern isn't that White House overshare is annoying or that constant exposure corrodes the Kennedy-era glamor, though he mentions these. His worry is that the things we should really care about--the policy decisions that make the U.S. presidency the most important job in the world--are getting buried by the reality TV dimension. Beneath the day-to-day drama (personality conflicts with General Stanley McChrystal or Ambassador Karl Eikenberry come to mind), the serious business of running the nation is at hand, Carr argues. If the White House presents itself like reality television, is it at risk of becoming, like reality TV, more entertaining and less substantive?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.