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"The good news" from The Ryskind Sketchbook

I'm only just getting around to commenting on the President's prime-time presser Tuesday night. Contrary to most Conservative commentary I've seen or heard this week, I thought he did well. Most of the responses from my side of commentary I find cheap.

  • "The press didn't cover Bush's conferences in prime time." Well, they did at first. After 8 years it got old. This is the new guy and everything he does is interesting at least until we get to know him. "
  • "It's all about him, he can't stand to be without a camera, he's still in campaign mode." For the love of pete, Bush traveled constantly to defend the war and get his budgets passed --and he was very effective. As to the tv, Conservatives just spent at least two years complaining that Bush didn't do enough to explain and defend his policies to the people. We prize Reagan as "The Great Communicator" and admire him for talking over the press directly to the American people. Why should Obama not do the same? What's offensive about his press appearances is what he says in them --his policies-- not that they occur (well, except for the Tonight Show; I don't think a sitting president belongs on joke show. I don't even like it that candidates for President go on).
  • "At least the press for once asked him tough questions." No, they didn't. They asked stupid gotcha questions ("How come it took you 3 days to get "outraged" about AIG bonuses?") Oh, lordy: that's criticism? Not one reporter questioned a single premise of anything Obama asserted, and it's precisely his premises that are wrong. Within the limited circle of his own reasoning his answers were impressive. As far as I can tell the toughest question Obama's ever been asked was posed by Jay Leno insisting Congress had no right to target individual citizens with tax policy.
  • Moreover, we learned that he's going to back down on a lot of his spending and particularly on cap and trade. The markets shot up. On his terms, he had a very good week and is on a roll. I don't hear a lot of radio these days, but when I listen running errands I hear no one knowledgable about the bills being proposed, very little serious criticism or engagement. Just teleprompter jokes and gaffe exploitation and whining about the unfair treatment. It's very old, very bitter, and frightening, because we're going to lose our liberty if the opposition doesn't get serious. It's going to take some homework, fellows.
Questions I wish had been asked:
  • (This one is Ryskind's) You say our healthcare system is broken because we pay more for it than any other nation. Yet we are paying more for our educational system than anyone else in the world too, and your response to that is to propose new spending, despite the fact that in study after study, "no positive correlation between spending and student performance has been found." Moreover, several of your assertions are false: The high school dropout rate has fallen by 1/3 in the last 30 years–not increased; 8th grade math scores have risen to 9th from a low of 28th place in 1995, not dropped; we trail #1 ranked Norway for bachelor's degrees by a mere percentage point. How can you possibly justify additional spending for education when the nation has no more money to spend and there is no reason to think more money will make the slightest difference in student achievement?
  • The other Western nations nationalized health care years ago and they're worse off than we are in terms of looming inability to pay for retiring baby boomers. How can you possibly hope to ameliorate the cost of the Medicare & Medicaid entitlements, which we already cannot afford, by giving everyone in the country a medical entitlement too?
  • You're proud of your experience as a community organizer, and have encouraged young people to work in their home communities. Do you support Congresswoman DeLauro's proposal to create a Food Safety Administration that would in essence break the back of small farms, farmer's markets, and the raw milk and local foods movements? (And if so, will the First Lady's organic garden comply with the new rules?) Do you support Congressman Waxman's legislation to use the Consumer Product Safety Commission to shut down many home craft businesses? Why are you reducing the tax credit for charitable organizations, reducing the ability of community-based organizations to raise money for local efforts? Aren't all those moves aimed at destroying not only individual initiative, but the ability of communities to act on their own behalf?