Attention to detail

ATTENTION TO DETAIL…. A few weeks ago, MSNBC’s First Read had an item questioning whether President Obama “knows too much” about health care policy. The piece complained that the president is willing to offer Americans details about reform, which means going “into the weeds.”

The Wall Street Journal‘s Jonathan Weisman raised a similar concern today, arguing that Obama cares too much about policy details.

“President Obama, not only does he want to hear about the unemployment rates — he wants to hear about the U6, the underemployment rate! A few weeks ago, they were talking about child obesity rates, and what to do about childhood nutrition. These things go into the weeds.”

This, apparently, is criticism, not praise. The president who inherited a devastating economic crisis is interested in U6 numbers — a measure that includes the unemployed, those who are working part-time but want full-time employment, and those who’ve simply given up — and this, we’re told, is somehow evidence of excessive interest in detail.

It’s an odd complaint. When the president goes beyond poll-tested soundbites, he’s going “into the weeds.” When the president wants a more reliable measurement of the employment landscape, he’s gone “into the weeds.” When the president can speak about childhood nutrition, he’s gone “into the weeds.”

Dan Froomkin has this just right.

There are all sorts of legitimate reasons to be concerned about Obama’s approach to governing.

But particularly after the presidency of George W. Bush, who so often seemed detached both from details and reality, Obama’s intellectual curiosity is one thing journalists in particular should celebrate, not sneer at. It’s the know-nothings we should be exposing, not the know-somethings.

I can’t help but wonder if there’s some kind of resentment, for lack of a better word, among reporters who are annoyed by Obama’s attention to detail. Perhaps they’d prefer a more superficial president because they have a more superficial perspective?