“So whether you are a blogger or a broadcaster, whether you take on powerful interests here at home or put yourself in harm’s way overseas, I have the greatest respect and admiration for what you do. I know sometimes you like to give me a hard time, and I certainly like to return the favour, but I never forget that our country depends on you. You help protect our freedom, our democracy and our way of life.”
I appreciate this ending to Barack Obama’s speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, especially after having read “When the Press Fails” by W. Lance Bennett, Regina G. Lawrence and Steven Livingston about how the Bush administration suffocated the media (and their responding obedience) during the War in Iraq years.
Obama gets it. He’s fairly accessible to the media (the recent Jimmy Fallon interview, the Rolling Stone feature) and understands the importance of a free press to challenge the politics in a democracy. But the three sentences are the only serious nods to the press in his speech.
The rest is Obama the performer; full of pokes and jabs at the media, Congress, the Republicans and even himself (“What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull? Pitbulls are delicious”). Perfect deadpan delivery and teeth-baring grins.
John Cassidy at the New Yorker comments on how Obama’s speech solidifies him as Mr. Cool, but he warns that Obama might be “too cool” for America—that is, the voters in the upcoming election. The Republicans will pounce/are pouncing on Obama’s charisma (as they did in the last election) and hipness as someone out of touch with actual Americans. I suppose when you have the not-as-charming Romney as the most likely candidate (or Gingrich—Obama did give his hopes: “There’s still time, man”), the too-cool-for-school card is the best you can play.
Sorry Obama, you gotta simmer down on the coolness. The Republicans just can’t keep up. It’s not even fair at this point.