Speaking on “Fox & Friends,” McCain was asked to explain the poor reviews Obama garnered after the first of his three televised debates. “Four years inside the bubble with an adoring media,” McCain responded.
[D]uring most of his public career Obama has been received by his audiences with undiluted adulation. He has been totally unused to being challenged on his talking points.
As a Democrat in Michigan in the 1960s, I opposed Romney’s father George Romney in his races for governor in 1962, 1964 and 1966. When he ran for president in 1968, he was unprepared for dealing with an unsympathetic press; the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press were, to varying degrees, pro-Republican in those days. When he ran for president in the 1968 cycle, he was caught off guard when local area Detroit TV talk show host Lou Gordon got him to admit that he was “brainwashed” by administration or military personnel in Vietnam. George Romney was used to being protected by the press from the consequences of spontaneous comments; when he wasn’t, because he had entered into the realm of national politics, he was caught off guard and, soon enough, his candidacy collapsed.
Barack Obama has a similar problem. The mainstream media has been playing protective guard around him for the last five or six years. He has seldom faced tough questioning, having managed to avoid open press conferences (as I recall) since last June. And of course mainstream media is extremely unanxious to ask him embarrassing questions about a whole host of issues. To his credit, moderator Jim Lehrer didn’t zero in on these things but didn’t prevent the interaction between the candidates from raising such questions.
I expected Romney to beat expectations and win the debate (though I had no clue how decisive his victory would be), not because I thought Romney was such a fantastic debater, but because Obama is the single most overrated politician of my lifetime…
As president, he’s convinced himself that he is a policy wonk with a deeper understanding of the machinery of government and the mysteries of the economy than even his advisers. And yet he had to learn on the job that “shovel-ready jobs” were magic beans sold to him by party hacks hungry for pork. He bought a stimulus that only stimulated political cronies. In the debate, he touted windmills and solar power as the energy sources of the future as if he still honestly believed that.
The media’s infatuation with Obama and/or their contempt for his critics only served to reinforce his delusions. When the press laughs at all of your jokes and takes your glib excuses as profound insights, the inevitable result is a kind of flabby narcissism. Kings can be forgiven for thinking they are the greatest poets when the court weeps at their clunky limericks.
President Barack Obama’s wobbly performance against Mitt Romney at their first debate is raising questions about whether he’s been too sheltered by a White House that keeps him away from skeptical audiences and minimizes confrontation.
Obama’s 2008 opponent, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, said Obama’s lackluster performance at Wednesday’s debate in Denver stemmed from four years of dealing with an “adoring media.” Other political observers said it’s a result of Obama’s relative isolation in Washington: He prefers interviews with select journalists to unpredictable press conferences, and he doesn’t mix much with members of Congress or parry and thrust with critics who could challenge his assertions.
“He’s a guy who has no pushback on anything, ever,” said Charlie Cook, an independent political analyst and editor and publisher of The Cook Political Report. “He’s not doing press conferences, he’s got little interaction with members of Congress and he’s surrounded with acolytes. I think it showed.”
Obama has set a modern record for refusal to be quizzed by the media, taking questions from reporters far less often than Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and even George W. Bush. Though his opponent in 2008 promised to take questions from lawmakers like the British prime minister does, Obama has shied from mixing it up with members of Congress, too. And, especially since Rahm Emanuel’s departure, Obama is surrounded by a large number of yes men who aren’t likely to get in his face.
This insularity led directly to the Denver debacle: Obama was out of practice and unprepared to be challenged. The White House had supposed that Obama’s forays into social media — town hall meetings with YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and the like — would replace traditional presidential communication. By relying on such venues, Obama’s argument skills atrophied, and he was ill-equipped to engage in old-fashioned give and take.
Obama hasn’t appeared on any of the Sunday public affairs shows since Sept. 2009, thus bypassing a traditional stop in which presidential candidates address the type of Beltway issues that are likely to come up at the debates. Obama hasn’t done interviews with top newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post since 2009, according to records kept by CBS News’ Mark Knoller. The president’s last New York Times sit-down was in Sept. 2010…
Obama hasn’t been sitting down with incisive TV interviewers, like ABC News’ Jake Tapper, or combative hosts like Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, with whom Obama tangled before the 2011 Super Bowl in an appearance that forced the president to deal with the type of interruptions he’d later encounter on the debate stage.
Instead, he’s done interviews with People and Entertainment Tonight. And in an interview that aired Sept. 11, Obama discussed Flo Rida and football with Miami’s “Pimp with the Limp” DJ Laz.
Obama is not a good debater. Any non-loyalist who has watched him closely over the years knows this. He struggled in the pre-primary debates of 2007 to distinguish himself in the multi-candidate field. It was, instead, his fundraising capacity, his ability to give a great scripted speech, and his one-on-one appeal that broke him through in Iowa in late 2007. In head-to-head debates against Hillary Clinton, his responses were regularly unfocused and his demeanor often prickly – i.e. exactly what we saw on Wednesday night. He won the general election debates in 2008 in large part because he was debating John McCain, a poor debater whose candidacy was in grave danger by that point.
Actually, Obama’s debate performances are quite similar to his press conferences, which he now avoids for good reason. Watching Obama on Wednesday night reminded me of his press conferences during the health care debate; I half expected him to accuse pediatricians of doing needless tonsillectomies for profit! He has two venues where he excels: a big audience where he can give a scripted speech to the anonymous masses, or a one-on-one interaction where his personal charm can win out. Debates and press conferences occupy a middle ground where he must engage in impromptu, unscripted speechifying; he has always struggled with this.