(Other People’s) Pundits Drowned Out Obama’s Oil Speech

At Newsweek.com, Jeremy McCarter describes “How Cable TV Pundits Stepped on Obama’s Oil Speech.” Writes McCarter:

Critics describe the Beltway media as an echo chamber. But on occasions such as a presidential address, the pundits seems more like the world’s least funny improv troupe. They have elbowed into the old act of presidential theater, and they usually steal the show…

There’s real value in offering people an informed analysis of major presidential addresses. But the way that the analysis gets delivered can be more or less corrosive to the relationship between the government and the governed. When pundits are so clear in their demands, so visceral in their disappointment, so numerous, and so verbose (the 18 minutes that Obama spent delivering his speech was a fraction of the time the cable channels devoted to talking about his speech), it weakens the communication between president and audience that defines theater, political or otherwise.

Nicely put.

As examples of the “demanding,” “disappoint[ed], “verbose” punditry on display Tuesday night, McCarter quotes from, among others, the insta-reactions shared between MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann (“[The president] didn’t aim at all,”) and Chris Matthews (“I don’t sense executive command.”) What McCarter doesn’t mention is that MSNBC’s post-presidential-speech “improv troupe” had three players, and the head in that third on-screen box — the one that weighed in before and after Matthews — belonged to Newsweek’s Howard Fineman. Fineman’s initial two cents? “You said he aimed too low, I don’t think he was specific enough, Keith.” And, then:

“The commander-in-chief thing was lost.”

“He had to confess but in a way he didn’t confess enough.”

“It should have been like Franklin Roosevelt explaining exactly what was happening in Europe.”

“I talked to White House officials before this and asked what did they want to accomplish…Let’s give the president credit for wanting to do the right thing, but what comes through here is the sense that he doesn’t have a fingertip feel for this.”

For Newsweek.com to publish a (yes, well-written) piece about “the warping effect of all this punditry” that not only doesn’t note in passing Newsweek’s own regular contributions to the noise — which, as the New York Times’s David Carr recently observed, are hard to miss — but in which the author appears to go out of his way to avoid including a Newsweek reporter’s contributions to a specific conversation held up for example is…well, “warping.”

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.