Coming to a stage near you, the well-oiled Obama Road Show
For all the two very long years and $750 million worth of talk about real change to believe in, Barack Obama is showing day-by-day that he is precisely the same as every other smart president when it comes to Washington trouble and dominating the news:
Get out of Dodge.
Nothing but an unexplained and possible terrorist attack -- not even the senseless death of actress Natasha Richardson -- can dominate the American news the way a president of any party can in the capitol for sure. But especially when he travels outside the politically charged, yabbering environs of Washington, which may very well be the largest single man-made cause of global warming.
And when a president is as extraordinarily skilled as a public communicator as Obama, there's every reason to get out and about. If your style of governing in the nation's capitol looks kinda clumsy -- even inept at times -- get outside and do the easier work, what you and Bill Clinton so love to do: campaign.
Just as the president has done frequently and is doing again today with the second West Coast town hall meeting in as many days and a taping with Jay Leno of the "Tonight Show" to become only the second sitting president on late-night TV, in case that matters somehow.
While Obama is likely asleep in his soundproofed bedroom with the electric blinds and actual shower on board Air Force One en route back to the White House this evening, about 5 million....
... Americans, themselves about to hit the sack, will see him with Jay the Jaw.
The commander in chief will no doubt be charming, casual and ready to drop the B and E words (Budget and Economy) at a moment's notice. And he'll have a self-deprecating joke ready, also likely a friendly comment for Kev in the band.
Yes, some bloggers have wondered aloud if Obama will bring along the comforting teleprompter that's ubiquitous at his appearances and so unobtrusively fed him lines during his first White House news conference. But no worry. The discussion topics between Jay and the president have already been negotiated by staff and mutually agreed on. Even the spontaneous jokes have been cleared in advance.
Obama's speaking style and rhythm are familiar and smooth. As we pointed out Wednesday, he still sets up his own straw men and not surprisingly strikes them down. As a stand-up guy, he takes full responsibility for the embarrassing AIG bonus mess, while in the very next sentence making it exquisitely clear that his administration is not responsible for those outrageous contracts.
Chances are good no one will ask Obama today about the T.G. words (Timothy Geithner). And if they do, the president can repeat his support of the embattled Treasury secretary, who may or may not have screwed up on the AIG bonus issue, and the president will quickly change the subject away from those petty partisan concerns and back to his own grand agenda for the nation's good.
Who wants to witness Edward Liddy, who was summoned from retirement only in September as the federal financial paramedic of AIG for the outrageous annual salary of $1, bludgeoned mercilessly for the cameras by the overpowering, hyperbolic hypocrisy of congressmen and women who awarded themselves $4,700 raises in this winter of economic duress? Those raises, making their annual salaries $174,000, will cost taxpayers an extra $2.5 million this year; call it "a bonus."
Better these days to be the fresh new president somewhere else. Which is what these trips are all about -- to Denver and Phoenix and Elkhart and Columbus and Ottawa and this week Southern California.
And next Tuesday evening's newly scheduled primetime news conference and Mexico and Europe at month's end and on and on.
You don't need to read the entire town hall transcript from Wednesday (although as usual on The Ticket you can right here) to get a sense of the confidence and calmness Obama conveys. BTW, we'll be live-blogging today's town hall right here again.
Viewed in Washington, Obama looks about the same as little Harry Reid or Rahm Emanuel. But with much of the country undecided or still wanting to like him, Obama comes across out here as taller than 6-2 on the local stage. Virtually anywhere is his home field. And the liberal liberal fears fade in person or seen through local media.
No team with a word-weapon as sharp as Obama would not wield it out in the country, where the rookie president remains popular (59%-62%) and still largely gets the benefit of the doubt among anxious Americans. He's much bigger news out here in the real world than he is back in D.C. with the legislative Lilliputians bickering bitterly like, well, the old radio Bickersons.
As a country, we're likely to see a whole lot more of the Obama Road Show that today plays in L.A. and Burbank.
-- Andrew Malcolm
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Photos: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times; NBC (2008).