Caught in a Baier Trap
03-18-2010
I watched yesterday’s Fox News interview with President Obama, and the results were, well, predictable. The interviewer, Brett Baier, may be a respected professional journalist, but he also knows that a significant portion of his viewership believes that President Obama is either an empty suit or a grave threat to our democracy (for some, both). They also believe that the mainstream media has given the president a free pass over the past year. So, let’s just say that Baier was a bit amped by the opportunity to hold Obama accountable. You could almost see him vibrating in his seat.
 
On conservative talk radio today, Baier was hailed as a conquering hero, and the interview as a milestone in professional journalism. It is true that Obama seemed quite annoyed by some of the questions and frequent interruptions by Baier, but the president’s demeanor wasn’t all that different than what I’ve seen from George W. Bush and Bill Clinton when pushed on occasion in the past. Presidents generally do not like being challenged by the media, especially when they feel like the interviewer has his own agenda to pursue. My guess is that had the same treatment been delivered to President Bush, conservatives would have expressed outraged, rather than the giddiness they showed today. It just goes with the polarized partisan nature of our current political environment.
 
Not surprisingly, some Obama supporters have complained that Baier crossed over the line into showing disrespect for the president.  After watching parts of the interview several times, I think he may have approached that line, but was ultimately able to pull back. Baier actually offered a preemptive apology at the end of the interview, perhaps out of his own uncertainty over what had just transpired.
 
That being said, I don’t think the interview was a particularly effective one, unless Baier’s primary goal was to please his viewers by really irritating the president. That type of approach will thrill opponents of the president, while completely turning off his supporters. Those in the political center are likely to be left feeling kind of bummed out by the whole process. While there is nothing wrong with some tough questions for the president, it could have been done with a bit more style.
 
Note: I have to briefly step away from the website. I will be back with new content for you on Tuesday, March 23rd. See you soon. - Dean


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