Saturday, January 2, 2016
Who's that knocking at my window?
On a humorous note, it was nice to see year end episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Of course, they didn't go very far in this episode. The President seems remarkably relaxed, but that has been his hallmark throughout his tenure. He took to the '63 Stingray as if it was his own.
I was a bit surprised by the banality of the coffee break room in the White House. One would think this place could be jazzed up a little with one of those vintage espresso makers with a bald eagle on top, but I guess Mr. Coffee is tres americain.
President Obama has received a lot of flack over the years for engaging in talk shows and humorous interviews, including a memorable episode of Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis early last year. It's OK to appear on Laugh-In or the The Tonight Show if you are campaigning for the Presidency, but there are those who consider this beneath the office of the Presidency to engage in such chatter while in the Oval Office. Yet, here was Obama letting Jerry Seinfeld munch on an apple while he finished up some business before going out for a short drive in Jerry's Corvette.
Bill Clinton was probably the first sitting president to use the talk show circuit as a way of striking back at all the late night comedians who made him the butt of their political jokes. It was a way of showing he was a good sport, and that's pretty much the way Obama approaches it too, often giving as good as he gets, as was the case with Zach. George Bush wasn't very quick on his feet so it is understandable that he avoided these talk shows, preferring to get his digs in at press conferences.
The talk shows are generally seen as being Democratic-friendly, which is another reason Bush made very few appearances. He did go on Dr. Phil back in 2004, but the pop psychologist is more friendly to conservatives and the interview was staged at his Crawford Texas Ranch. Dana Perino considered the late night talk shows a no-go zone for the former President.
However, Obama hasn't been afraid to step into the lion's den, letting himself be interviewed by "Papa Bear" O'Reilly twice. It is hard to think of O'Reilly as a serious journalist, but that's who Fox chose to have interview the President in what has now become the annual Super Bowl interview. O'Reilly was determined to take down the president, turning the interview into an inquisition. Last Year, NBC took a lighter approach, going into the President's kitchen.
Like it or not, President Obama has definitely changed the dynamic of the interview, using it as a way to engage with the television audience, often in refreshing ways that allow the public to see the President with his guard down. Of course, these interviews are well scripted, and Obama very much knows what's coming and has time to respond. Just the same, there was a friendly spontaneity to the Seinfeld interview.