For just under an hour on Tuesday night, Americans saw not the fiery and inspirational speaker who riveted the nation in his address to Congress last month, or the conversational president who warmly engaged Americans in talks across the country, or even the jaunty and jokey president who turned up on Jay Leno.
Instead, in his second prime-time news conference from the White House, it was Barack Obama the lecturer, a familiar character from early in the campaign. Placid and unsmiling, he was the professor in chief, offering familiar arguments in long paragraphs — often introduced with the phrase, “as I said before” — sounding like the teacher speaking in the stillness of a classroom where students are restlessly waiting for the ring of the bell.
Yeah, what the hell, Obama? No one wants to sit and listen to whole paragraphs about the collapse of the economy. What's with all this smarty talk, with numbers even?! This is TV, for God's sake; you're cutting into NCIS! Can't you just bow your legs, squint, and say, "we're gunna git'em varmints!" like the last guy? He was entertaining, and so strong and folksy!
Do us all a favor: next time we tell you we want details, just substitute an Old West-sounding catchphrase. Those are so cool!
That quoted paragraph, by the way, isn't from FOX News, or Yahoo! Entertainment News, or Maureen Dowd's catty, superficial editorial column. It's from the New York Times. At the top of the homepage. The first two paragraphs.
What I think is most interesting about this reaction is what it says about these reporters' opinion of the American people. Apparently the vast majority of us who bother to watch pressers are either insufficiently affected by the economy to care about this stuff as anything more than entertainment, or too stupid to pay attention through "long paragraphs." Apparently all journalism, no matter how serious the subject matter, is just entertainment now.