If you start with the premise that there is nothing President Obama can do to make the White House Press Corps happy, then it makes sense that an interview with comedian and talk show host Steve Harvey would cause controversy in the beltway. The interview with Harvey is seen as a “softball” interview with a friendly audience now that the media has declared Obama’s second term practically over as his approval ratings struggle.
Perhaps if those same beltway media types didn’t write trivial columns about “selfies” the president would take them more seriously.
Steve Harvey isn’t really that unusual a choice for an interview. Maybe the beltway was too distracted by the health care website nonsense to realize that the date is creeping closer to the first deadline for healthcare reform. Blacks and Latinos have the highest rate of uninsured. The president taking the time to talk to his base of supporters, while at the same time reminding the folks who need healthcare the most, that they can sign up on a now-functional website and get coverage starting in a few weeks. And yes, talking about family and the holidays can’t hurt either.
But that’s never the way the beltway likes to analyze issues. President Obama’s approval ratings go down. His presidency is over, until it isn’t. The web site isn’t working and Obamacare is a irreparable disaster, until it isn’t. One of the characteristics of covering President Obama is that he’s boring. His approval ratings overall have remained pretty consistent with a big dip in recent months after the government shutdown and the website glitches.
And it’s not like previous presidents didn’t do a friendly interview from time to time. President Bush did his share of softball interviews during his two terms as president. And it’s also not like the serious beltway media doesn’t also dabble in their share of softball or irrelevant questions from time to time. At a press briefing to announce gun safety legislation, the white house reporters failed to ask a single question about guns, instead only asked about the coming fiscal cliff.
The president should and will do hard-hitting interviews before the end of his second term. What is beneficial to him and people of color who make up Steve Harvey’s audience is an interview with the president being a human being and reminding them to sign up for Obamacare. Sometimes an interview that humanizes the always under the microscope president is important. Every interview doesn’t need to be Walter Cronkite.
But let’s say President Obama gets his interview mojo back and decides to take on a “hard-hitting” interview. Perhaps the media can ask him to expand his remarks about income inequality being the “defining challenge of our time.” Americans really need to hear from the president on the latest NSA revelations where a federal judge called the collection of domestic phone records “unconstitutional.” Americans definitely need to hear more from the president about the nuclear deal with Iran.
And that interview will happen, but an interview that allows the president to speak directly to his community is important, too.
(Follow Zerlina Maxwell on Twitter at @ZerlinaMaxwell.)