The political story of the afternoon is President Obama's address to the House Republican retreat and the riveting Q&A session that followed. Commentators are delighted by the frank exchanges and unscripted debate that unfolded. Several are comparing it to the famous rough-and-tumble of British parliamentary politics. In fact, both liberals and conservatives want to see more, and there's a distinct bipartisan feeling that this may have been one of the president's better moves. A small sample, below (the Post has some of the Q&A transcript here), with the commentators' reactions:
- Another? "This became what could be the first publicly-held President's Question Time, and Obama was quick on his feet," concludes Eric Kleefeld in a report for Talking Points Memo. "Will something like this happen again?
- 'Address Is Not Quite the Right Word,' marvels the Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan, "because it was a genuine--and remarkable--conversation between Obama and his political opponents--transparently on CSPAN." His takeaway? "I remain depressed at the prospects for a breakthrough, but this was good politics and good policy. More, please. Do this every month." He likes the idea of Obama as "therapist in chief."
- 'Fun Times All Around,' says conservative Meredith Jessup at Townhall. Her favorite parts were the "Republicans who have stood up and told the President how the GOP has NOT been obstructive," and those who accused the president of lying "about employing lobbyists in his administration."
- Great Television "Why not replace the SOTU with this sort of thing?" Asks conservative National Review's Daniel Foster, transfixed. Summing up the event, he adds, "maybe it's just that the novelty of the Q&A has yet to wear off, but that was--for lack of a better phrase--pretty cool." His favorite part: the "back-and-forth" with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), "as it was clear that the president realized he was in the presence of a razor-sharp wonk and one of the most effective critics of his administration." Calling the entire event "remarkable," he says "more remarkable still is that it would be hard to argue the exchange is anything but a plus-plus for Obama and the GOP. Both sides emerged from it looking as if, contra the public's greatest fears, they more or less know what they are talking about on issues like the deficit and health-care reform."
- 'I Don't Recall Ever Seeing This Before in My Life,' says the Guardian's Michael Tomasky. "Whichever side you're on, this was fascinating television." Though he doesn't think the president "won every point," nor that he "changed a mind in the room," he still thinks it "a remarkably candid piece of political television, especially for this day and age." The only complaint? He wishes it had been on prime time, to get more viewers.
- Both Sides Civil, Earnest Tweets conservative Kathryn Jean Lopez, "i think everyone who participated in that Q&A exchange can spin it to his advantage. and it sure beats one-way lectures." Her National Review colleague Jim Geraghty agrees: "it was the antidote to everything that was insufferable about the State of the Union--the uninterrupted platitudes, the dishonest framing, the aversion to acknowledging alternative views, the endless droning, etc." Furthermore, he adds "the questions from the Republicans were pointed but fair." Like many, Geraghty wonders when we can expect a repeat performance.