The White House is doing something with its local TV interviews that it could not easily get away with in encounters with the White House press corps, which President Obama has been studiously ignoring: choosing the topic about which President Obama and the reporter will talk.
In interviews with three local TV stations Monday, two from states critical to Obama’s reelection effort, Obama held forth on the possibility of “sequestration” if he and Congress fail to reach a budget deal, allowing him to make his favorite political point that Republicans are willing to cause grievous harm to the economy and jobs in order to protect the rich from tax increases.
[. . .]
The reporters mostly made no effort to hide the arrangement. “The president invited me to talk about sequestration,” NBC 7 San Diego’s reporter told her audience. In the interview, she set Obama up with a perfectly pitched softball the president couldn’t have been more eager to take a swing at:
“What do you want individual San Diegans to know about sequestration?” she asked.
I mean, if your subject is dictating the topics of the interview, why exactly are you needed in the process? Have journalists gotten a lot wimpier since my reporting days, or is it because these are TV faces first and journalists second? I remember lots of interview subjects trying to steer the conversation, but I don't remember any who actually tried to set interview parameters beforehand. Journalists just didn't do that, no matter how podunk our town or small our paper, and most politicians didn't try to get away with it.