President Obama’s decision to grant interviews to three YouTube “creators” after the State of the Union address in lieu of sitting down with actual journalists diminishes his standing.
At a time of grave international security threats and terrorist attacks, Obama is seen sitting down to an interview with a woman wearing green lipstick. He couldn’t be bothered to send a senior representative to the recent Paris demonstrations against terror, but he has time for this?
The sorry spectacle was a cute commercial for Google and YouTube but it’s a stunt that should be beneath the commander in chief.
The president was grilled with such urgent questions as: “What TV show do you watch?” “What did you want to be growing up?” And “If you had any super power, what would it be?” This makes President Clinton’s saxophone-playing appearance on Arsenio Hall look downright regal by comparison.
In one exchange with GloZell Green, Obama used the tired and insulting expression “lifestyle choice” to describe LGBT people. A real journalist would have followed up to ask if the president views homosexuality as a “choice.” No such luck here. But at least Green got a hug from the president.
What’s especially galling is that in six years in office, Obama has never taken a single question from the Washington Blade, a 45-year-old award-winning news source that is a member of the White House Correspondents Association. We have a reporter in the White House briefing room every day, who is also a member of the in-town pool rotation. Obama himself even promised me in 2009 that he would break with the anti-gay traditions of the White House communications office and finally sit down for an interview with the Blade; we’ve had a credentialed reporter in the briefing room since the Reagan era yet never interviewed a sitting president.
He’s never honored that promise to me, yet finds time for silly interviews with flash-in-the-pan comedians and YouTube “sensations.” Maybe it’s sour grapes. Maybe I’d feel differently about these displays if Obama spent more time engaging with real journalists and answering the tough questions. Obama is averaging just 1.7 news conferences per month, according to the American Presidency Project, compared to 2.18 per month for George W. Bush and 2.85 for President Clinton. In addition, Obama has broken his campaign promise to protect whistleblowers as this administration aggressively targets whistleblowers and journalists alike.
As Jesselyn Radack wrote for Salon, “While the Bush administration treated whistleblowers unmercifully, the Obama administration has been far worse. It is actually prosecuting them, and doing so under the Espionage Act — one of the most serious charges that can be leveled against an American.”
Obama is a brilliant orator, a skilled politician and an unparalleled advocate for LGBT equality. But he compromises his legacy and cheapens his office with these stunts. Will he stop stonewalling and finally make good on his personal promise to sit down for an interview with the Blade? The clock is ticking, Mr. President. We’re ready when you are.