While the media focused on President Obama's attacks on Paul Ryan's budget yesterday, the president had a separate message for the press: Here's how to cover my re-election campaign. At the Associated Press Luncheon in Washington, with mainstream journalists as far as the eye could see, it was an ideal venue for such remarks and the main take away was pretty clear: Make the GOP sound radical and depict Mitt Romney as a tight-laced white guy.
Of course, the way the president conveyed that message was a little bit smoother. On making the GOP appear radical, the emphasis was on perspective and establishing a false equivalence between the two parties. "I guess another way of thinking about this is -- and this bears on your reporting," the president said Tuesday, "I think that there is often times the impulse to suggest that if the two parties are disagreeing, then they're equally at fault and the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and an equivalence is presented -- which reinforces I think people's cynicism about Washington generally." The president went on to describe the evolution of GOP thinking on a range of issues demonstrating how far to the right the party has become. "Cap and trade was originally proposed by conservatives and Republicans," he said. "Now you've got the other party essentially saying we shouldn't even be thinking about environmental protection; let's gut the EPA ... [This is] true of a lot of the debates that we're having out here."
Nobody knows whether he'll have any luck convincing the press of dropping its, "on the one hand" paradigm but it's a message The Atlantic's James Fallows has been championing for awhile now and happily acknowledged in the president's remarks yesterday. "From the commanding heights of our government, the 'false equivalence' problem seems to be coming into view," Fallows wrote.
Still not every journalist is thrilled to take editorial pointers from the president, From the home team, Molly Ball tweeted:
The President was discussing the new and improved Paul Ryan Budget ... and took aim at the likely Republican nominee for president. “One of my potential opponents, Governor Romney, has said that he hoped a similar version of this plan from last year would be introduced as a bill on day one of his presidency,” the President said. “He said that he’s ‘very supportive’ of this new budget, and he even called it ‘marvelous’– which is a word you don’t often hear when it comes to describing a budget.”
President Obama paused for laughter. “It’s a word you don’t often hear generally,” he added, to more laughter.
The video gives a good sense of the direction of the joke:
Now President Obama by no means was the first to realize that Mitt is an unhip fuddy duddy, but you can see how this attack line on him is something that the president wouldn't mind seeing get a lot of play. As Christopher noted, this could be the beginning of something distinctly entertaining:
Has the Obama campaign made a conscious decision to draw a contrast between stiff, uber-Caucasian Romney and their looser, more relatable candidate? Can we look forward to jokes about Romney’s lack of rhythm, or hyper-vigilant style of driving?
For the sake of an entertaining election cycle, let's hope so.