Phony, that is, in the sense that the White House knows in advance the questions that’ll be asked, which makes the questioners de facto plants of the most transparent administration evah. I have no big problem with The One putting on a pageant — that’s standard presidential stagecraft in a television age — but I do have a problem with the NYT taking care to note the “orchestration” when Bush pulled this while neglecting to mention it this time. It’s in keeping with the media’s narratives about Dubya and Obama, though, the former shifty and stupid and therefore dependent on softballs, the latter “open” and ingenious and no longer required to prove his ability to handle tough questions. Also, and needless to say, while Thomas’s and Chip Reid’s effort is appreciated, O doesn’t need to shut out the press in order to “control” it. That’s what Rahm’s mad manipulation skillz are for, and what Rahm (and Axelrod) can’t control, old-fashioned liberal bias can be trusted to take care of. As lefty rag Vanity Fair admitted early last month:

They have been handed a most remarkable historical moment—in which they get to remake the media in their own image. They have the power and they are the subject. These people in this White House are in greater control of the media than any administration before them.

Frankly, with ABC holding infomercials for Obama in prime time, it seems almost petty to get exercised about a phony town hall. Exit question: How seriously should we take concerns that Obama’s not facing enough tough questions when voiced by a woman known to wonder why the White House considers Iran a threat? Click the image to watch.