The White House Does Not Understand Today’s Media

September 1st, 2011 at 6:07 pm | 34 Comments |

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Roger Simon has a column in Politico where he interviews an anonymous White House source about the fallout from the scheduling conflict over the President’s jobs speech. One comment given by the source indicates to me that this White House has a very peculiar view of media:

The White House was well aware the president’s speech would conflict with a planned Republican debate sponsored by POLITICO and NBC to be held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. The debate would be broadcast live by MSNBC, CNBC, Telemundo and live-streamed by POLITICO.

Yet the White House did not see this as an obstacle. “With all due respect, the POLITICO-MSNBC debate was one that was going on a cable station,” the White House source said. “It was not sacrosanct. We knew they would push it back and then there would be a GOP debate totally trashing the president. So it wasn’t all an upside for us.”

There is quite a bit of hubris in that comment, but lets focus on how the source demeans cable news.

It’s true that in absolute terms, MSNBC does not have very high ratings. MSNBC also does not have the deepest penetration into American households.

Yet I am willing to bet that the people who do watch MSNBC are very interested in politics. Whether they are liberal or conservative, they are invested in the 24 hour news cycle. They are more likely to be frustrated if they have to choose between an important speech and a GOP debate.

People with niche media needs have more options than ever to have those needs met. Sure, the country as a whole doesn’t really care when the speech is held, but for people who are invested in the GOP debate they not only care more, they also have louder megaphones.

Simon’s account of the day’s events is very sympathetic to the White House. According to the account, Boehner was ok with the proposed date and it was only when Rush Limbaugh said it had to be changed that Boehner acted.

Even if this is true, it is hardly surprising. It speaks to what should be obvious to the White House by now: that the Republicans are very plugged into their media and that they respond to what their base wants. In the GOP’s world, the debate is very important to them, moving it could be seen as losing face to the White House, and they are not necessarily going to let the White House pre-empt something they have already planned.

If we find out next Thursday that all this brouhaha was over speech where the President discussed patent reform and the need to commit to long term deficit reduction, it’s going to make the fuss that has been raised by the White House seem even more petty.

Recent Posts by Noah Kristula-Green

34 Comments so far ↓

  • zephae

    “According to the account, Boehner was ok with the propose date and it was only when Rush Limbaugh said it had to be changed that Boehner acted.”

    Then why didn’t they say just that? Why move it at all? Say, “John didn’t have a problem with this yesterday and Congress is only in session 2 days this week. There’s gonna be another debate the following Monday and a third ten days after that. We think it’s more important to talk about tackling unemployment and the poor economy today, not a year and a half from now. Americans who are hurting don’t have time to wait, they need solutions now and that’s what we plan to give them on Wednesday.”

    Why would you ever capitulate to their obstruction when the GOP would just be making a fool out of themselves on national television?

    • paul_gs

      =”Why would you ever capitulate to their obstruction . . .?”=

      Why? Because Democrats were blackmailed! Again! By Republicans!


      • Oldskool

        You may think the hostage-taking you’re referring to was directed toward Dems but even a fool like yourself should be able to see it was the country who suffered for it. And since they promised to do it again, we’ll suffer again the next time they do it. Your party and the shitheads like you who make it up have caused more damage to this country than any of our declared enemies.

  • Oldskool

    A more accurate title for this article was spoken in March, 2010.

    “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox.” – D. Frum

  • MSheridan

    Let’s see: this story has no wrongdoing, not even any accused wrongdoing, and revolves around a scheduling conflict between a speech and a debate. Some of the most committed partisan base on each side may get worked up about this “issue”, but I promise you that this is not resonating with Americans at large from either party. Anyone who thinks otherwise is only deluding themself.

  • ottovbvs

    The impression left on the country (to the extent it’s resonating at all) is that Republicans consider their debate is more important than an announcement of plans to deal with the unemployment situation. When the Republicans inevitably reject whatever the president proposes (literally whatever) what will be the takeaway for the average American do you think? Maybe I’m assuming the WH is more Machiavellian than it is but you be the judge.

    • Churl

      Yeah, the Genie in the Magic Teleprompter will reveal unto our leader the incantation that ends unemployment. He utters the magic phrase and our troubles disappear.

      So predict for us, oh Oracular One, how many millions of unemployed and underemployed and long term discouraged unemployed will this hocus pocus return to gainful jobs?

      Wait! Wait! I know the answer! Very few. Because the tea partiers, Koch Brothers, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and Rick Perry will cast evil spells that deflect the Teleprompters magic.

      • ottovbvs

        Another of your incredibly insightful commentaries Churl. They leave one speechless in wonderment.

        • Churl

          My insight is simply this: Despite Obama’s bright ideas to fix the economy things continue to get worse. Remember the $800 Billion Stimulus that would hold unemployment 8% or below? I do, and I note that unemployment is stuck at 9%+ and the labor force participation rate is dropping. Why should I expect something better now?

          I’ll continue to snicker at Obama until I see his proposals deliver some positive results. Let me know when there are some. Not excuses. Positive results. Not some conjuring of “jobs saved” but data showing “private sector jobs added” (you know, the workers who pay the taxes to pay government employees). Not blame for opponents but some significant private sector GDP growth.

      • ottovbvs

        “but lets focus on how the source demeans cable news.”

        This btw was the hilarious quote in here. Cable news our great national institution has been demeaned (eye’s roll)

        • balconesfault


          There’s a good argument to be made, I think, that cable news (and particularly all those cable political talking head shows) are like methamphetamines for the political process.

          There are people out there who might take meth to enhance their job performance in the short term … and it apparently can give an immediate boost to productivity, or a sort. But it degrades judgement, it erodes the body, it eventually corrupts and destroys performance because it kills the ability to engage in long term rational decision making. A lot of cable news is more theater than anything else these days.

  • dugfromthearth

    I suspect that those who would want to watch both know how to record one and watch it later.

    • MSheridan

      I suspect that more people will end up watching the football game live than either the debate or the speech. Further, I’d guess that most people who pay attention to the speech at all will get their opinions about it predigested from their favorite opinion source, right or left. That being the case, this is one of the more pointless “issues” I’ve seen seriously discussed on this site or the other sites I also read.

    • cryptozoologist

      i think most of the people who want to watch both still can’t get their vcr’s working since the digital switchover. at least the clocks on them are still right twice a day

  • valkayec

    I have to ask the author of this article and every good Republican: what would Boehner and co have done if a GOP President had requested a joint meeting of Congress on the day of a Presidential debate by either party? Would Boehner and co. have according a Dem debate the same courtesy and asked the speech be moved? Would Boehner and co. have told a GOP president that he/she had to move the speech to another day to accommodate a GOP debate?

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  • Primrose

    Are you still harping on this? What are you a teenage cheerleader clique? I don’t even get how you are offended. So a Democratic president didn’t care about a republican debate a full year before the election. Do you expect him too? Really? Do you expect him to take Rush into consideration ever?

    He moved it. He accommodated you. Enough already.

  • HighCountry

    These guys can’t wake up and have a cup of coffee in the morning without squabbling about it. Makes me friggin’ sick.

  • Graychin

    You could not have chosen a better photo to accompany this post.

    That is the (ugly) face of today’s media. Everything the GOP does has to be run past Rush first. It seems as though Boehner was OK with the Wednesday speech until Rush weighed in against it. I guess the White House didn’t see that coming. Shame on them.

    The silly “I’m more ‘conservative’ than they are” debate, one of a dozen or so, and coming a full five months before the first caucus in the January snows, could easily have been moved back an hour to accommodate a presidential speech. But as another commenter pointed out, that would have forced the Republican debate participants to comment on Obama’s proposals before hearing what Rush had to say about them. They must have been frightened to death of that prospect.

  • PracticalGirl

    “According to the account, Boehner was ok with the propose date and it was only when Rush Limbaugh said it had to be changed that Boehner acted.”

    You state this, yet then spend time talking about how Obama doesn’t understand the “media”. Perhaps what’s baffling to them and others is a GOP that bows not to the “media”, but to a propaganda artist.

    Do you, Noah, understand the distinction?

    • PatrickQuint

      Perhaps you misunderstand the terminology. Journalists and propagandists both employ “media” to get the message out.

      The line between journalists and propagandists was never clear. What distinction may have existed has disappeared, though really I suspect it was never more than a pleasant illusion. Journalism and propaganda sit on a continuum.

      Even bare facts are subject to selection bias, and nothing lies quite like statistics.

  • cryptozoologist

    so the president should be consumed with the gyrations and recursive navel gazing of the media, but the media (that’s you noah in this case) can’t be bothered to remember that the president of the united states is and should be above all that.

  • more5600

    Rush and Grover have more power over the Republican Party than any elected leader, Boehner is powerless until given his marching orders from these two. Did you notice that the job creation has slowed to a crawl since the Republicans took the House, do the math.

  • think4yourself

    I’ll get out on the limb and say this was a mistake by the White House.

    Yes, the President’s speech on jobs is more important (maybe, because unless he has a game changing proposal, it’s a political speech for the President’s benefit). But this is politics. The President’s team has been talking about this speech for weeks. The date of this debate has been known for weeks. So scheduling the President’s speech at the same time as the debate (when at least 2 of the debaters should be attending the President’s speech) says either (a) I don’t really care about what the GOP thinks or does or (b) I’m determined to engage in one-upmanship and talk over the top of you. Both make the President look petty and could have easily been avoided.

  • think4yourself

    I’ll also add the debate was MSNBC/Politico. MSNBC, the home of Maddow, Ed Schultz, O’Donnell, etc. Why would the President do a speech at the same time his biggest media cheerleaders will be hosting his opponents and then deconstructing the GOP debate in a way that is favorable to the President? Don’t pee in your own pool.

  • icarusr

    “There is quite a bit of hubris in that comment, …”

    Because, of course, there is no “hubris”, on the part of a twenty-something twerp, in purporting to teach the African-American (and this is entirely appposite) with the name Barrack Hussein Obama who beat the Clinton machine and survived the Republican onslaught to become the first black President of the United States a thing or two about the, er, “media”.

    “… but lets focus on how the source demeans cable news.”

    Ah, not that “cable news” has demeaned the President, the Presidency, his family, the Democratic Party, the intelligence of the US voter, the US political systemic, the Founders, the Constitution, etc. over the past three years.

    Between Worthington and this fool, and Frum’s “Obama didn’t fuck the Republicans enough, so he’s a weak-kneed sissy” line of analysis, one despairs of intelligence on the Right.

    • LauraNo

      +1 to everything you say.

      Hey, Frum, when are you going to get a +1 button? And why aren’t we directed back to the comment when we log in? And why is there no way to know if someone responded to a comment? Do your editors or whomever look around to see what every other website does?

  • agustinvicente

    I messed up.-sorry for two similar posts.

  • agustinvicente

    What white president has been treated with such contempt and disrespect? The answer is none. Nothing new here. Just some more dissin’ the black man.

  • LauraNo

    Not many people watch MSNBC, it’s not on the standard array, you have to pay a premium to get it. I hardly think any president would consider it more important to reach that audience than the audience of say, the season opening NFL game featuring the Super Bowl champions. But as low as the MSNBC numbers are, I wonder if GOP debates between kooks and crazies actually gets bigger numbers. This is not the first time Boehner has lied about scheduling. I think we can expect this time and again since it works so well for him.

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  • PatrickQuint

    So, on the face of it it looks like Obama deliberately schedules his speech at the same time as the Republican debate, for no reason other than to try to step on the toes of Republicans the way they’ve been stepping on each others’ toes. Hey, it worked for Perry, right?

    God knows the Republicans have it coming, but I just don’t see how it was actually going to work out that way. Boehner always had the option to simply not convene his part of the Congress on that day, citing the obvious pettiness of the President as political cover if necessary. It’s hard to see how the President comes out of addressing a half-full room while pulling a blatant political stunt looking good. Joe Scarborough suggested some rhetorical flourishes that could possibly make it happen, but I’m very much skeptical. So instead Obama reschedules, and once again looks like he’s taking his marching orders from Republicans. So, the blatant stunt backfires.

    I don’t see how setting up the conflict was a good idea. This leads me to believe that it was just some clerical error on the part of some White House staffer, possibly now unemployed. It’s just too obvious to be the real deal.

    Playing hardball with the Tea Party seems to be in order, and I would like to see the President be tougher on them. I just hope this isn’t the President’s idea of hardball. Experience in prior conflict, however, suggests either that this *is* hardball and that the President doesn’t know how to play (he’s from Chicago!?!?WTF!?!) or that he’s just not trying.

    It’s baffling. It’s almost as baffling as the fresh inability of the Republican party to handle its own base, which it *had* been handling successfully for generations.

  • Biped

    The photo of Limbaugh that accompanies this article has been photoshopped to a fare-thee-well. Many politicians’ pictures are given similar treatment, so that the the public is shown an misleading version of the physical reality. Take Marco Rubio . . .

    • Bunker555

      No, it’s an old picture from when he was imbibing Oxycontin and Viagra cocktails.