Though there are those grumblers who claim the media reports on Barack Obama with obsequious adulation, I have always sensed that what little bit of a honeymoon Obama might enjoy would end as soon as the Heglian contrarianism of the talking heads set in. At last, Obama would be subject to the typical Washington D.C. establishment pettiness that plagues so much of political commentary today, where you are damned if you do, damned if you don't. Damned if you're a "Washington insider," damned if you're a "rookie." Damned if you're a consensus-builder, damned if you're a maverick (unless you're John McCain and not actually a maverick).
John Dickerson's analysis in Slate of a recent health care forum that Obama moderated in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, displays all of the typical pettiness of a gotcha journalist and none of the concern for getting to the substance of the forum. At the event, Dickerson says, Obama heard "one depressing story after another from people who had no insurance, bills that had bankrupted them, sudden losses of coverage, or only enough money to pay for the thinnest catastrophic policy." Welcome to our health care system, John Dickerson. It's pretty depressing, and yet such stories are all too common.
Less concerned with the hallowed substance of Obama's response, Dickerson instead goes on to concoct a thesis that if Obama puts on an informative demeanor, he runs the risk of appearing professorial. According to Dickerson, "we're not electing a president to run a seminar." This to me seems about as petty as it gets: Obama is merely listening to people, providing answers to them, and expressing general knowledge about health care issues. Dickerson continues, "That Obama has to hold [forums] to show he's serious only reminds voters that he doesn't have a lot of national political experience." Don't most presidential candidates hold these? I thought townhalls and their ilk were run-of-the-mill events for campaigners and public officals.
The article goes on to make some riveting conclusions, like that Obama's contributors must like him a whole bunch. Slate, here's an idea: take a day or three off from pop political reporting and try to provide your readers with a better picture of our failing health care system and what reforms are currently on the table to address it.