I know, I know, it’s Rolling Stone — but even that has at least a modicum of journalistic credibility, such as their evisceration of Barack Obama’s response to the Gulf spill that was both informative and challenging. Of course, that story got written by a reporter. This interview got conducted by the boss, Jann Wenner, who obviously feels a need to intervene in Obama’s failing fortunes. And not with any subtlety, either, as the first question demonstrates:
When you came into office, you felt you would be able to work with the other side. When did you realize that the Republicans had abandoned any real effort to work with you and create bipartisan policy?
An answer comes after this question, which is rather amazing, considering how far Wenner had perched his head inside the President’s colon; it must have been difficult to hear it. Gee, Jann, could that moment have come when Nancy Pelosi locked Republicans out of the process of writing the very first bill Obama wanted, Porkulus? Or perhaps, when challenged on that, when Obama himself replied, “I won”? Lest anyone forgets, that moment came on Day 3 of the Obama presidency.
And then Obama proceeds to whine for three paragraphs about how Republicans wouldn’t support policies they have never supported, as if he suddenly paid attention to the GOP for the first time in his life on his first day as President. Obama also whines about the abuse of the filibuster despite the fact that Obama is the first President to ever have voted to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee.
Oh, and about the Gulf spill and the utter lack of response from Obama and the administration that Rolling Stone documented so well? Wenner skirts the entire issue by just asking why Ken Salazar hasn’t been fired for not reforming MMS before the spill:
Let me ask you about the Gulf oil spill. British Petroleum fired Tony Hayward, so my question is: Why does Interior Secretary Ken Salazar still have his job? The corruption at Minerals Management Service was widely known at the time he came into office, as was reported several times in Rolling Stone and other places, and that’s what helped the Gulf disaster to happen.
That’s the entirety of Wenner’s questions on the Gulf disaster and the documented incompetence shown by the Obama White House. It’s as if he didn’t read his own magazine. Imagine if Wenner had an exclusive interview with George Bush five months after Katrina and had only asked about Michael Brown being fired.
Frankly, that was enough for me, but The Corner has done a good job of picking out some of the more entertaining moments. Apparently, that silly war on Fox News is still on at the White House:
“You had folks like Hearst who used their newspapers very intentionally to promote their viewpoints. I think Fox is part of that tradition – it is part of the tradition that has a very clear, undeniable point of view,” Obama said.
Unsurprisingly, Obama called Fox’s voice “a point of view that I disagree with. It’s a point of view that I think is ultimately destructive for the long-term growth of a country that has a vibrant middle class and is competitive in the world.”
“But as an economic enterprise, it’s been wildly successful. And I suspect that if you ask Mr. Murdoch what his number one concern is, it’s that Fox is very successful.”
Obama takes a little more care about angering Tea Party activists, giving most of them grudging credit but reminding Wenner that it has “darker” aspects to it:
“I think the Tea Party is an amalgam, a mixed bag of a lot of different strains in American politics that have been there for a long time. There are some strong and sincere libertarians who are in the Tea Party who generally don’t believe in government intervention in the market or socially. There are some social conservatives in the Tea Party who are rejecting me the same way they rejected Bill Clinton, the same way they would reject any Democratic president as being too liberal or too progressive. There are strains in the Tea Party that are troubled by what they saw as a series of instances in which the middle-class and working-class people have been abused or hurt by special interests and Washington, but their anger is misdirected.
“And then there are probably some aspects of the Tea Party that are a little darker, that have to do with anti-immigrant sentiment or are troubled by what I represent as the president. So I think it’s hard to characterize the Tea Party as a whole, and I think it’s still defining itself.”
He didn’t seem quite so reticent about scolding his own supporters for their lack of enthusiasm, though:
“It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election. There may be complaints about us not having gotten certain things done, not fast enough, making certain legislative compromises. But right now, we’ve got a choice between a Republican Party that has moved to the right of George Bush and is looking to lock in the same policies that got us into these disasters in the first place, versus an administration that, with some admitted warts, has been the most successful administration in a generation in moving progressive agendas forward.
“The idea that we’ve got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands complaining, is just irresponsible…It has been hard, and we’ve got some lumps to show for it. But if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren’t serious in the first place.”
Democrats will probably turn out, although not nearly as much as they did in 2008, but that’s to be expected. Midterms usually get lower turnouts. The problem isn’t so much the Democratic turnout as it is the Republican turnout, highly motivated as it is, and how the independents have abandoned Obama and the Democrats. All Obama can do now is hope to generate a base turnout that will do for him what Karl Rove engineered for George W. Bush in 2002 and 2004.
Will this interview improve Obama’s prospects, and that of his party, in the election? Doubtful. Rolling Stone aims at the base, not the independent voters, and the base will hardly be inspired by Obama’s negative incentive of Republican victory in their absence. Given that has been obvious for months, a presidential reminder is neither required or effective.