“You know, the truth of the matter is, is that when you look at some of my policies, um, in a lot of ways, Richard Nixon was more — more liberal than I was,” President Obama told the veteran Fox News anchor. ”Started the EPA. You know, uh, you know, started, uh, uh, a whole lot of the regulatory state that, uh, has helped make our air and water clean.”
This of course doesn’t rise even to the level of tired cliche, but is an absurd, almost bizarre statement except for the fact that it ate up time and created a diversion which O’Reilly took for about one minute before shaking off the hypnotic effect of nonsense from a president and bringing up the inconvenient 17 trillion dollar deficit.
Now here is an example of the art of doing nothing –saying nothing– well, by the president:
“I painted houses during the summer too,” the president responds to O’Reilly’s noting of the vast explosion in disability claims, somehow turning the conversation back to himself and his tired rhetoric. ”It still wasn’t enough. So, the, uh, so my point is is that that’s not a nanny state. That’s an investment in the future generation. G.I. Bill — is that a nanny state? My grandfather came back for World War II, you’re about to write a book on World War II. Smartest thing we ever did was make an investment in the American people.”
Note the president’s appeal to O’Reilly –I know you write books Bill,help me out here, talk about World War II– which is far, far away from the rapid rise in disability claims. He never gets back to O’Reilly’s valid point. The president sails on. Answering nothing, throwing out meaningless comparisons to presidents past, shrugging his shoulders at questions, charges and failures.
The president wanted the appearance of an interview, and so he summoned O’Reilly who, like Jake Tapper before him, tried. But this is a practiced man, a man artful at non-disclosure and filibuster, for whom the correct interview technique would be to invest allof a questioner’s allotted time –however much given– in one subject and one subject alone, drilling, drilling, drilling. He will never offer up a hint of the reality behind his stonewalling unless you come with a sledgehammer and swing away, again and again. That isn’t going to happen with anyone because the presidency protects its occupants, even its least able, unless they record themselves and turn those recordings over to federal judges.
All of media knows this frustration, but they put up with it only with the president or guests for whom the stakes just are not that high.
“You know,” Jake Tapper told me last week as we discussed a particularly unsatisfactory interview he had conducted with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, ”this is a constant frustration of people who want to get a message out, and then I interview them, and I don’t necessarily want to talk about what they want to talk about. ”
“This happened with, I had the governor of Michigan on Friday, came on the show,” Jake continued, “and he wanted to talk about immigration reform and what he is focused on in Michigan. He wanted to talk about creating jobs, and I wanted to talk about other things having to do with internal divisions in the Republican Party. I was up to my, you know, nefarious media tricks, and you know, people want to talk about what they want to talk about.”
If you can’t bring a governor or a cabinet secretary to candor, you certainly can’t make a president level with you. You can only punish his party. And for that we will have to wait until November.