Didn’t Obama Kinda Heckle Himself?
The Big News on Friday is that Daily Caller reporter Neil Munro “interrupted” President Obama’s statement on granting a sort of limited work-visa amnesty for young illegal immigrants. (The official transcript admirably captures what words from the reporter’s questions were possible to hear.)
Mr. Munro explains himself thus:
I always go to the White House prepared with questions for our president. I timed the question believing the president was closing his remarks, because naturally I have no intention of interrupting the President of the United States. I know he rarely takes questions before walking away from the podium. When I asked the question as he finished his speech, he turned his back on the many reporters, and walked away while I and at least one other reporter asked questions.
And indeed, the transcript shows that the president did not take any further questions. That leads to what I see as the more relevant observation: It was Barack Obama, the President of the United States, who made an issue of the interaction.
In the immediate case, he did so by his reaction to Munro’s audacity in disturbing the ambient peace of the President’s press event. As the videos and the transcript show, had Obama not stumbled over his recitation in order to scold the journalist, nobody would have been any the wiser. It displays a characteristic peevishness that the nation’s top executive was so disturbed by the nearly inaudible interruption that he could not ignore it in the course of finishing his remarks.
More importantly, the President brought the interruption on himself by giving members of the press corps the sense that he considers their role to be stenographers of his statements, without opportunity for questions. If Munro had reasonable expectation of an opportunity for some Q&A, he wouldn’t have tried to slip a bit of Q at what he thought to be the President’s closing.
By way of comparison, take a look at this video of President George W. Bush’s indulgence as David Gregory, first, deals with the technical difficulty of his microphone wire and, then, offers a long-winded, ideologically charged question. Or better yet, consider a tweet that Prof. Jacobson highlighted from Jim Treacher:
If you cheered when a reporter threw a shoe at Bush, but you booed when a reporter threw a question at @BarackObama, #YouMightBeALiberal.
Chuckles aside, revisit the video. President Bush’s reaction? “So what if the guy threw a shoe at me?”
When the missile is a question that’s sure to be on the minds of many Americans (likely a majority), President Obama’s reaction is, “I didn’t ask for an argument.”
In a democracy, the relevant factor isn’t what the President “asks for” or allows, but what the people request and demand.