Maybe this was more of a Rorschach test than first thought. When a reporter asks a tough question of a president, many of the people who get upset at the “tone” and who cheer for the reporter switch sides when the party affiliation of the President changes. So far, though, only Bill Maher has managed to toss race in as an issue with Major Garrett’s sharp exchange with Barack Obama yesterday:

Liberal HBO “Real Time” host Bill Maher took offense to a CBS White House reporter who on Wednesday admitted to intentionally provokingPresident Obama with a question about Iran.

“Major Garrett is a huge a–hole,” Maher wrote late Wednesday in a message to his 3 million-plus followers on Twitter.

Maher suggested Garrett’s interaction with the president had a racial element to it. “If you wanna ‘strike a nerve’ with [Obama], why not just scream the N word?” Maher’s tweet continued. “That should get his attention.”

It’s interesting that Maher didn’t actually use @MajorCBS in the tweet. If Maher really wanted to send a message, why not actually send it into Garrett’s mentions column? Why hashtag the name instead?

On top of that, it’s a little odd to see someone like Maher object to a tough question for a President, even one calculated for provocation, as Garrett himself admits was his intent. Isn’t that what Maher does for a living with his guests? It’s been a very long while since I’ve bothered to watch Real Time, but Maher’s entire schtick is provocation, both of his on-set guests and cheap-shot jokes at people who aren’t there. As Erik Wemple noted in his defense of Garrett, the framing of the question was provocative but the subject matter was “a critical matter” on which Obama had not been challenged. If Obama had been Republican, one can imagine a much different reaction from Maher.

Furthermore, Chris Cillizza argues, it was apparent by that point in the presser that the reporters were being used as window dressing by Obama:

In truth, Obama had very little interest in engaging the press and their questions Wednesday. Instead, he wanted to use them as a prop  to get out his talking points and answer his growing chorus of critics on the Iran deal. …

So, when the president chooses to give a press conference, the expectation is that he will, you know, answer questions.  That’s not really what he did Wednesday.  Instead, he used the edifice of what looked and sort of sounded like a press conference to dismiss critics and ensure that his case was made by the person he believes is the best messenger for it: himself.

This was a speech on Iran that reporters attended.  That’s not the reporters’ fault — they can only do so much if the president is determined to filibuster every question and go on at length (and then some). And it’s a near-certainty that Obama could care less what the media thinks of him at this stage of his presidency. (He likely never much cared.)

Still, what he did Wednesday was something well short of an open back and forth between the leader of the country and the fourth estate. You might not care. But you should.

Again, one wonders why a media figure like Maher thinks asking a tough question of a President determined to avoid them is not just assholery but also racist. Golly, I can’t wait for a Republican to be president so that dissent can once more be patriotic, and the media can suddenly feel the need to hold the powerful accountable again.

Ace nailed the Maher angle long before Maher even tweeted it out:

Perhaps this is more of a hack test than a Rorschach test.