OBAMA AND THE PRESS….Howard Kurtz has sort of a fascinating/disturbing column today about Barack Obama and the press:
All traveling campaigns have a bubble-like quality, but Obama seems unusually insulated. One moment of absurdity came Tuesday, when reporters on the press bus were asked to dial into a conference call in which Obama announced a congressman’s endorsement — even though the candidate was nearby and just as easily could have delivered the news in person to the bus captives. Obama answered a few questions, but reporters are generally placed on mute after they speak so there can be no follow-up.
….Obama often goes days without taking questions from national reporters, and when he does, the sessions can be slapdash affairs. In Nevada, for instance, correspondents were reduced to shouting queries at him during a photo op in the kitchen of the Mirage Hotel.
….Some reporters say Obama seems disdainful toward journalists, having submitted to precisely one off-the-record chat over beer several months ago in Iowa. To them, the absence of a senior official traveling with the press is a sign of benign neglect.
The primary reason, say those who have observed Obama most closely, is that he’s never had to court the press, even in Illinois. Obama rocketed to national prominence with his 2004 Democratic convention speech, had an easy Senate election, and has gotten largely upbeat coverage from the moment he got into the presidential contest. His tactics have sometimes been criticized but not, by and large, his character.
The result: He has never had to learn press relations as a survival skill, not when he can just trot out Oprah Winfrey and ride the resulting wave.
Now, Obama has gotten pretty rapturous press coverage anyway, and Kurtz mentions later in his piece that reporters are just as susceptible to the famous Obama charisma as anyone. Still, the general election is going to be a slugfest, and it’s a bad sign if Obama’s press operation hasn’t been honed to deal with it. What’s more, it’s also peculiar: why stay aloof from a press corps that loves you? Maybe someone should try to ask him.