Tuesday, February 10

Small Change

JAKE Tapper is a Washington insider. He gets to ask the President of the United States questions. You don't. You may, if you wish, go get used as his backdrop in Elkhart, Indiana, when he comes to town to prop up his rep and the half-assed stimulus package he let three Senate Republicans write. What the hell, if you live in Elkhart there's a 1 in 6.66 chance you won't have to ask off work.

And, if bylines are to be trusted, Jake Tapper spent some part of his Monday reporting on the story of the Obama Justice Department's second shocking, or "shocking", and shameful public announcement in a week that it intends--at minimum--to try keeping the open secret of the Bush administration's torture program a State Secret, at least as much as possible.

So when Jake Tapper gets to step up to the plate sixth at last night's Historic Inaugural Presser, what does he ask about? Why, The Great Stimulus Package Horse Race, of course. Just like the previous five questioners. Why do you ask?

Okay, I lied: Caren "My Parents Couldn't Spell" Bohan of Reuters, batting second, asked about Iran. And Tapper's question ("...how can the American people gauge whether or not your programs are working?") at least made sense, didn't mention bipartisanship, and did actually connect with The Public, if only much in the way an Archbishop connects with The Laity. 

All this, of course, followed the President talking about The Stimulus for ten minutes to start the program.

(Tapper did sneak in mention of the Presidential Stimulus Stool, now in the process of being fitted with Legs; this, together with two credit loosenings and eight "My bottom line..."s gave the procedure the distinct feel of an hour-long Metamucil commercial.)

Yada, yada, yada. And yada. Is there a conscious effort to get the guy to speak for five minutes after every question, or is that just his natural inclination? Jesus, fucking reform the process, already; the beloved Reagan (whose format this is) had his Lapdog Training Program fully in place before his first Presser. Thirteen questions in an hour! Nearly four minutes per after a generous ten minutes for opening remarks, and half of those concerning what you'd already gone over. It shouldn't take five hundred words, and two bottom lines, to answer a question about permitting photographs of "flag-draped coffins". Especially when you don't even answer the fucking question. You're the President of the Goddammed United States, and you need a Review Board before you decide if it's right or wrong to hide returning casualties? Shit. If we're not going go back to making them jump up and down and yell for recognition (and the exercise couldn't hurt), at least let's ameliorate the Student Council meeting vibe. Take call in questions. Take emails. Have a fucking Lighning Round, fer chrissakes, where anyone who can't come up with a new Yes or No question in five seconds loses his credentials for a month, and where you have to answer in fifteen seconds or less or the pizza's free. Why--other than the dictates of teevee--is the thing exactly one hour long?  Why th' fuck is the Spirit of Competition supposed to have magic powers when in comes to driving the economy, or fixing failing public schools, but Presidential Press Conferences are restricted to the second runners-up of inter-office brown-nosing derbies? Invite in some actual journalists, maybe, instead of the WaPo guy who asked about A-Rod. Maybe if the prevalent background sound at these things was trash talk, instead of the same hollow "I'm an Insider" laughter that's been going on since Reagan cracked his first Soviet Union or Irresponsible Washington Bureaucracy joke, we'd begin climbing out of our problems instead of up our own asses.


Anonymous said...

Wow, Jake could have really been a journalist for the first time in his life with a simple Helen Thomasism. "Mr. President, given your decision to keep all torture related cases as classified State Secrets, was all your campaign talk about 'no more torture' lying or stupidity?"

As Dan Castanetella once said to my wife (back in Second City days), "Inquiring minds want to know"

--Little Pig

Anonymous said...

Oh well, these pressers, as so much with American government and media, are intended strictly so those involved can be seen as doing something rather than, you know, actually doing something. Unlike real life, the pressers are very orderly and photogenic and everyone is dressed very nicely and knows their lines.

The two most genuine moments in modern press conference history are Howard Stern's Stuttering John asking Jennifer Flowers if she and Bill Clinton used condoms and, of course, the shoe-chucking in Baghdad, although the latter I consider a statement and not a question.