TO: All the Better National Reporters
FROM: The Coach.
SUBJECT: The Appearance of Credibility.
Listen people, you’re doing great work. Our guy’s holding up very well considering how rough the economy is. No jobs, sky high dependency. Best part: people don’t blame him. They think he’s an innocent bystander rather than president for the last five years. We’re getting it done!
But one thing…maybe we gotta be careful not to show quite so much pompom and drool. Jackie Calmes and Michael Shear from the Times had a great sit down with the president. And who among us wouldn’t want to rub those shoulders and neck for 5,000 words? Am I right?
But in a really low blow, Matthew Continetti wrote a column pointing out that America’s elite scribblers had an extended audience with the leader of the free world and didn’t ask a single question about, oh, say, Edward Snowden, Lois Lerner, James Rosen, Mohamed Morsi, Bashar Assad, Nouri al-Maliki, Vladimir Putin, Hasan Rouhani, and Hamid Karzai. Not even about Eliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner, or Bob Filner.
Now, of course it’s critical we keep lobbing the softball set-ups so our guy can blame everything bad in the world on Republicans. But still, to look honest, we probably have to throw the occasional fast ball, don’t you think? It’s unpleasant work, but if you lose your nerve, you can check YouTube to see the kinds of questions Sam Donaldson or Helen Thomas used to ask Reagan and the Bushes.
Anyway, here are a few suggestions to get you started.
“Mr. President, you recently said ‘Ho Chi Minh was actually inspired by the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and the words of Thomas Jefferson..’ What part of Ho Chi Minh’s policies and government most remind you of the American model?”
“Mr. President, James Hoffa and other leaders of some of America’s largest labor unions have written you strong letters harshly criticizing the Affordable Care Act, saying that it’s killing jobs and benefits. They’re demanding major changes. What is your response to these criticisms? [Yeah, I know we haven’t reported this much, so you could break news just by asking the question!]
“ Mr. President, there are some developments about Obamacare. First, it’s reported you’ll create an exemption to let members and employees of Congress escape the law’s exchanges. Second, the IRS employees who will enforce the law on ordinary Americans want to be exempt from the law themselves. Third, a new Obamacare call center to answer questions and help people enroll will offer only part time jobs, without health benefits. Sir, doesn’t this all seem mighty fishy?”
“And a follow up, sir? Some critics say it’s not fair for you to grant employers a one year break on the coverage mandate without giving the same break to working Americans. Others say you don’t have any authority to delay implementation, and you’re just deciding when you want follow the law and when you don’t. How do you respond?”
“Mr. President, shifting gears to energy and the environment, one of the reasons you’ve given for taking drastic action against coal is that warming has accelerated in the last decade. Sir, the numbers don’t back that up. At a hearing convened by Senator Boxer, not one of the invited experts could substantiate that position when they were directly asked. Where are you getting your information, and with our struggling economy, is now really the time to gut America’s cheapest source of energy?”
“Mr. President, you talk about helping the middle class, but it’s reported that for every job your administration says it created, two people have gone on food stamps. Isn’t that more an indication of policies that aren’t working than policies that are?”
“You commented in a recent interview that if your proposals aren’t adopted, racial tensions might rise because inequality will increase. How do you respond to those who charge that was thinly veiled agitation that actually fans the tensions you say you’re worried about?”
“Sir, you pointed out yourself that the racial economic gap has widened during your administration. You’ve been president for five years now. How do you respond to critics who say your policies have limited growth and opportunity, hurt the working class the most, and widened the gap? And that bigger government and more public spending will just continue to make the problem worse?
Finally, sir, you have publicly and dramatically commented on the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case. Do you have any information or reason to believe the jury didn’t make the proper decision under the law?
A follow up? This was a senseless and unnecessary tragedy, but also very unusual on its facts. Some wonder about your priorities in weighing in. What about the thousand-plus urban deaths on city streets during the time of this case that went largely unremarked? Isn’t that a much more dire human opportunity for you to exercise presidential leadership? What’s your message to the youth in our inner cities who are committing and suffering from so much violence?
Come on team, if you think about it, it might be fun to try to sneak one over the plate once in a while. And think of the surprised look on the president’s face!