By now you know the problems with President Obama's media strategy. He's too somber. Also, he laughs too much. He needs to get out and communicate more. And he's doing too much TV. He's overly professorial. And too fluffy. He needs to be a calm, grownup voice. And he needs to share taxpayers' rage. But, you know calm their rage too.
As Obama held a weeklong media blitz Jay Leno, 60 Minutes, a prime-time press conference, ESPN listening to the contradictory feedback has been like watching a golf pro get his swing coached by a team of feuding instructors. On 60 Minutes, Steve Kroft critiqued Obama as he spoke. After the President chuckled at the observation that the only thing people hate more than bailing out banks is bailing out automakers, Kroft asked, "Are you punch-drunk?" (See the top 10 Obama gaffes.)
Maybe, maybe not. But viewers at home may have felt whiplash.
The recurrent meme was that the President was risking "overexposure." As it is so often these days, his critics' model was WWFDRD? What would Franklin D. Roosevelt do? F.D.R. reassured and galvanized Americans during the Great Depression with his fireside chats on the radio, but he gave only about 30 in 12 years so that each one would be special.
F.D.R., however, was able to roadblock attention in American homes on the only mass broadcast medium in existence, one so new and intimate it still seemed like magic. Obama is in a mediasphere that includes broadcast, cable, blogs, Twitter and sundry home-entertainment boxes. To persuade in this world and the President is not just the decider but also the persuader you have to go multiplatform. (Read "The New Liberal Order.")
So is Obama doing too much TV? To people who follow politics constantly, sure. ("The first President whose campaign was his qualification for office continues to campaign," sniffed George Will.) But those are not the people you go on the Tonight Show to get. The broader electorate doesn't seem so burned out yet, judging by Obama's approval ratings and the TV ratings. But that didn't stop the fainting spells over whether Obama was somehow abandoning his duty by talking to the public on TV. (This is a bad thing, by the way? I mean, we gave how much airtime to Octomom?)
No serious person believes the wheels of government are actually grinding to a halt while the President agonizes over whether North Carolina can take Duke or that Obama is cackling with wicked glee at the thought of autoworkers being thrown on the streets. (Least of all Kroft, who was smiling broadly himself as he asked the "punch-drunk" question.) Instead, these controversies are either surrogates for political arguments or another way the press plays the news-cycle game. Did the President win the interview, or did he lose it?