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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

No more Mr. Nice Guy

With the White House press corps eager to show its mettle against a President they've been accused of coddling, it was inevitable the "worst week" analysis would pop up almost immediately in the instant analysis cocoon.

And it was equally obvious that this media savvy President would take the tried and true road -- out of Washington and over the heads of reporters to speak directly to real people.

The trip to Elkhart, Ind. and the sit downs with network anchors are obvious efforts to work around the media filter. Less well recognized is the use of the press conference itself, maybe because it hasn't been used effectively all that often, particularly over the last eight years.

I hopped in and out of the prime time presser (dogs rule!) but I was struck by the length of Obama's opening statement, his tone and the length of his answers. Often reporters are accused of filibustering rather than asking questions -- this time it was the President who held the stage.

And he left no question what the prime sound bites for the stories will be:
“I’m happy to get good ideas from across the political spectrum, from Democrats and Republicans,” he said at the Monday night news conference. “What I won’t do is return to the failed theories of the last eight years that got us into this fix in the first place, because those theories have been tested and they have failed. And that’s part of what the election in November was all about.”
Definitely red meat, especially for journalists who have been focusing on the GOP Taliban who seem to care more about debating points than mortgage rate points. And while harshly partisan, it's no less so than what's been thrown at him.

The media frequently focuses on how presidents live in cocoons without acknowledging that they do do. It's a fact not lost -- at least for now -- by the media man behind the Obama victory.
“One thing that we learned over two years is that there’s a whole different conversation in Washington than there is out here,” said David Axelrod, the president’s senior adviser. “If I had listened to the conversation in Washington during the campaign for president, I would have jumped off a building about a year and a half ago.”
By heading to the heartland, doing one-on-ones with familiar anchors and talking directly to the public through prime time news conferences (not to mention calling on bloggers!) the Obama team is showing it knows how to play the game. Inspiration is good, but success is better. And if that requires taking the gloves off, whether with Republicans or the media, so be it.

This will be fun to watch!

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