Want to succeed in politics? Take a lot of questions from those pesky reporters!

- October 5th, 2012

Writing in the Washington Post today, columnist Dana Milbank argues that one of the reasons Obama delivered such a dismal performance in the debate this week is that he doesn’t get enough practice responding to challenging questions, practice he would have got if he spent more time taking questions from reporters:

Obama has set a modern record for refusal to be quizzed by the media, taking questions from reporters far less often than Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and even George W. Bush. Though his opponent in 2008 promised to take questions from lawmakers like the British prime minister does, Obama has shied from mixing it up with members of Congress, too. And, especially since Rahm Emanuel’s departure, Obama is surrounded by a large number of yes men who aren’t likely to get in his face.

This insularity led directly to the Denver debacle: Obama was out of practice and unprepared to be challenged

via Dana Milbank: President Obama doesn’t meet the press – The Washington Post.

And, as Milbank explains in that piece, even in one-on-one interviews, Obama largely controls the subject of those interviews.

And, as I’ve blogged in this space before, (See: “When it comes to press relations, do you like Obama or Harper?”) when he does do a White House press conference Obama almost always knows exactly what question is coming from what reporter because reporters must cough up their question to Obama’s aides if they want Obama to pick them at the press conference.

All of which should be a good lesson for you aspiring and current politicians out there: Your best debate prep is taking a lot of questions often from us pesky reporters!

Categories: Politics

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1 comment

  1. Gabby in QC says:

    Thank you for this post. It might help to get rid of two myths at the same time:
    1. The fairy dust surrounding Obama, about his openness, about his oratorical skills even when unscripted and without the benefit of a teleprompter.
    2. The control exerted over the media by our PM. As I argued in your “When it comes to press relations, do you like Obama or Harper?” post (strangely, my comment there appears as written by Anonymous, as do all other commenters’), I doubt the PM has control on who gets to be on the notorious LIST or on what question will be asked.

    Having said that, I wish the PM would take more than the usual four (2 Eng. 2 French ?) questions, without changing the format. Structure is good! Questions shouted out by the loudest reporters is cacophonous and meaningless!

    I also wish the media would report exactly what is said, without ascribing imagined motivations or interpretions to what was said through their own ideological prism.

    Also, the media should focus on important issues. I mean, does Romney’s allusion to Big Bird really merit 312,000,000 Google results? Does Harper’s shaking hands with children, especially his own, merit 1,570,000 results? I realize those references include social media, but still …

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