Friday, December 29, 2017

When Atrios Met Obummer

A million years ago a few bloggers, including me, got to go to the White House and spend about 45 minutes with Obummer and have a chance to ask a question. There were 5 of us there, I think. We basically had a chance to ask one question. We were all "liberals" and I don't think any of us really thought of ourselves as journalists (I don't want to speak for everyone, of course). I'll fully admit this was more a "cool thing you get to do and tell your friends about" than "a chance to ask that One Good Question to take the presidency down" but, hey, it wasn't as if I never criticized the guy (longtime readers might remember I criticized him quite a bit, especially but not just in the early days).

My thing was the foreclosure crisis. I had one question and no real chance for a follow up. I suppose I could have interrupted and tried to get into an argument, or whatever, but it wasn't a show all about me. I wasn't so deferential to Obama that I couldn't have done it, but I was deferential to the time limits and the fact that other people deserved their chance to ask a question.

So I asked a very open ended question. I knew this would just let him talk. But given the format - and that Obummer can talk - he was just going to do that anyway. I'm too lazy to hunt up the transcript but my question was something like, "Are you happy with the federal response to the foreclosure crisis?" My point was to make it open ended but also to try to get him up on his heels, if just a bit. Hard to fluster no drama Obama. And I don't claim I did, but he did actually get a bit defensive.

I didn't make any news that day (Joe Sudbay did, as Obama famously informed the world that he was "evolving" on same sex marriage. Good for Joe!). Some journalist even said the blogger questions were dumb! Fine, whatever, though compared to a typical press conference we did ok. Still I'm a big boy. Unlike the New York Times journalists, I can take the criticism!

Anyway, my point is, I get the "ask an open ended question to let them talk and see what happens" method. I used it. But I didn't get a follow up question. You don't need to interrupt if you have a follow up question. You can just...ask an appropriate question.