Jay Carney

27 Jan

CJR points to this nice, informative example of what we might see from the new White House Press Secretary in his more combative moments.  But what’s even more interesting is how Carney himself wrote about the experience on Time’s Swampland blog in his previous life:

“Wallace’s bash-the-media exercise has its merits as a campaign tactic. It certainly rallies the base. But the base won’t lift McCain to 50% in November. More importantly, in her smug dismissal of the media’s role in asking questions of the candidates, Wallace was really showing contempt not for reporters, but for voters. I bet there are a lot of undecided voters out there who were intrigued by Sarah Palin last night, but who don’t yet know enough about her — what she believes, what she knows — to be comfortable with the idea of her as vice president of the United States. It’s important to them to know if Palin can handle herself in an environment that isn’t controlled and sanitized by campaign image makers and message mavens. Maybe she can, maybe she can’t. As far as Wallace is concerned, it’s none of their — or your — business.”

How will his views shift now that he’s a message maven himself?  Like the appointment of Daley was cast as a fig leaf to the business community, does the appointment of Carney represent a shift in how the White House deals with press?  I suspect not.  Once you’re in the job of press secretary, you can’t really afford to let the principle of openness to press questioning compete with your responsibility to make sure the message gets through as you want it to.  Don’t expect Carney to make a 180 degree turn, but it is a rare opportunity to play the money where your mouth is game.


Back to The Drawing Board

14 Jan

Many have pointed out that President Obama’s speech in Tucson represented a return to his comfort zone.  Reminiscent of  his 2008 speech in Philadelphia on race and the 2004 Democratic Convention appearance, this speech, they say, represents the President’s skill as an orator and, “conciliator, rising above partisan politics with a call for comity and civility.”

And it is true, he did reclaim his long-lost place as the leader not just of red or blue America.  But he did not accomplish this simply through soaring rhetoric (though the speech was top-rate), or generic appeals to civility and working together.  Instead the President reprized his unique ability to be what he has called, “a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.

Some on the right took comfort that the President, “knocked heads on his own side,” by refuting claims that rhetoric caused the violence, while those on the left celebrated his insistence, in light of alarmist conservative rhetoric, “that we improve the discourse for the sake of our children and our country.”  Bipartisan fetishists, of course, were just happy that he seemed to seek a middle ground.  Setting aside the merits of any of these arguments, Obama’s success lies not just in his ability to give a speech that appeals to the diverse interests and beliefs of Americans of all political stripes, but that his words and voice actually allow listeners to take different lessons from the same sentence.

Surely this skill represents the President’s innate understanding and connection to the values and motivations of the American public.  But it’s also what leaves him so vulnerable to disappointment from all sides when the rubber hits the road on policy decisions.  It’s his great strength, and also probably the underlying cause (other than unemployment) of most of the turmoil his administration has battled in the last 2 years .

Promising: Armando Iannucci x Julia Louis-Dreyfus x HBO

11 Jan

Apparently Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Armando Iannucci are set to film a pilot called “VEEP” about US politics.  I’d watch that.

“The show is about a former senator ‘who finds being vice president of the United States is nothing like she expected and everything everyone ever warned her about.'”

Here’s hoping that there’s a few Malcom Tucker cameos.

(h/t Taegan Goddard)

Smith Goes Simpson

11 Jan

Ben Smith

UPDATE on the previous post.  Ben Smith has officially given the Bart Simpson reply to rampant speculation that he is in fact the author of the novel “O: A Presidential Novel”: “I didn’t do it,” wrote Smith in POLITICO.

Readers will recall that Joe Klein, author of “Primary Colors”, flatly denied writing that piece of presidential fiction before being unveiled as the true author.

Speculation persists…

Non-Denial Denial

10 Jan

Ben Smith wants to know who wrote “O”.   In his search for truth he asks, “a few of the likelier suspects” if they are the anonymous author.  Nearly all deny, or offer wry non-denials.  But Smith, who has thrice written about the book on his widely-read blog subtly named, “Ben Smith,” offers no such denial of his own.

Let’s assess the evidence:

Ben Smith has (presumably) been “in the room” with President Obama (unconfirmed)

Ben Smith has publicized the upcoming release on multiple occasions

Ben Smith, when faced with the opportunity to address the possibility of his own authorship, declined to offer an explicit denial

Further inflaming speculation, Smith failed to directly address rumors in subsequent emails.


UPDATE: Smith denies.


19 Nov

Pop Up Lisboa is using Poo stickers to promote themselves.  Hmm.


(Via NOTCOT of course.)


Who’s the Opposition?

1 Nov

In critiquing the “polarized press” Karl Rove once famously shot down the notion of an explicitly liberal media explaining, “the press corps is less liberal than it is oppositional”.   So if tomorrow’s election plays out as everyone expects and we find ourselves on November 3rd having just elected a GOP majority to one or two houses of congress, who becomes the opposition?

Since 2008 the media has positioned itself in opposition to pretty much everyone and everything that was driving the narrative at one point or another: the President, Democrats, the Tea Party, GOP leadership, banks, big government, Muslims, extremists, liberals, conservatives, you name it, they opposed it.  The brunt of their opposition, I would argue, has fallen on the shoulders of those who currently hold the most power and authority: Democrats and President Obama with a side dish of rich bankers.  This strikes me as a healthy predilection towards skepticism, although usually not a particularly productive one.  It has also been one of the President’s primary obstacles to selling the Democratic agenda and achievements.  Many have chalked this up to a “communications problem”; but who could even hear a sales pitch, no matter how effective, amid all the din and clamor of the current media environment?  Particularly when your platform (the media) is predisposed to distort and criticize your message in transmitting it to their audience.

But with power more officially divided between parties, who will the media look to as targets for their oh-so-genuine outrage?  And how will that impact the voters’ perceptions of the 2 parties leading into the 2012 slugfest?  Personally I think (and hope) we’re reaching the apex of the pendulum, and it’s only a matter of time before the inevitable course correction levels the playing field between right and left.  Whether that will be enough to right the ship electorally by 2012 remains to be seen.

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