Interesting Distinction

All modern day presidents and arguably every president in history has tried to go around the dominant media of the day. But TPM Reader JA notes that usually this is done in the context of a campaign or for an explicitly political purpose. Here, though, there’s a difference …

It goes without saying that any handwringing over President Obama’s appearance on an online comedy talk show is at best hypocritical coming from the Beltway press corp. and right wing. Afterall, where were these people when George W. Bush took photos of himself looking for WMDs in the Oval Office for the WH Press Corp. Dinner, or when Richard Nixon went on “Laugh In” and said “Sock It To Me”?

There is, however, a larger point here. Traditionally, presidents and presidential candidates from both parties have made concerted attempts to reach voters outside the mainstream news media in an attempt to humanize themselves for political purposes. President Obama’s appearance on “Between the Ferns” was for an entirely different purpose; namely, to encourage young adults to purchase health insurance.

It is too easy to view such an appearance in purely political terms, because it causes us to lose sight of the policy. What if we were to view the President as going on “Between the Ferns” for the purpose of saving lives, which his appearance probably did? When was the last time a President co-opted a comedy show for the purpose of concretely helping the American people?