Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Chuck Todd misses the point on sacrifice in Obama question, we already are sacrificing

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Originally published on on Fri, 03/27/2009 – 10:06am

Chuck Todd had a nice idea, in theory: ask those on the Internet to help him come up with a question to ask President Obama during Tuesday night’s press conference. We complain about the Washington bubble, and how the MSM is insulated from the problems of the world outside the nation’s capital. So Todd, perhaps seeing that frustration, solicited questions via and a plug on MSNBC’s First Read.

So what did Chuck Todd ask when given the chance Tuesday night?

“Why, given this new era of responsibility that you’re asking for, why haven’t you asked for something specific that the public should be sacrificing to participate in this economic recovery?”


In response, Obama noted the sacrifice made by companies receiving taxpayer bailout money. Then he shifted to Todd’s overall point.

“With respect to the American people, I think folks are sacrificing left and right. You’ve got a lot of parents who are cutting back on everything to make sure that their kids can still go to college. You’ve got workers who are deciding to cut an entire day — and entire day’s worth of pay — so that their fellow coworkers aren’t laid off. I think that across the board people are making adjustments, large and small, to accommodate the fact that we’re in very difficult times right now.”

It was a stupid question asked at a presidential press conference — there are plenty of those. And it was pretty insulting since it used Bush as a standard for a question in dealing with Obama. But what makes the question more insidious than normal was that Todd actively was trying to escape the bubble.

Chuck Todd told Rachel Maddow on Monday about getting outside the bubble, the Amtrak corridor between New York and Washington.

Perhaps in that Amtrak corridor, people are not having to sacrifice. But outside that bubble, people are doing plenty of sacrifice.

Todd told Maddow in going over the questions that it was like Olympic scoring, throwing out questions from the left and the right. But the theme Todd noticed was people asking about their own personal stories.

“People say they vote their pocketbook when they vote in an election sometimes when it comes to the economy and things like that — a lot of that questions in the middle there, Rachel, are very much sort of like, okay but, what does this stuff mean for me.”

So Todd explains on Monday that people out there are making imposed sacrifices already, and recounts several examples of those stories. On Tuesday, Todd asks a question to the president in front of a nationwide audience on why Obama is not asking those people to make sacrifices.

Todd should meet the poor woman in Mississippi who makes $42/week from unemployment if she was making sacrifices. Or anyone else in Mississippi who makes the maximum unemployment mark of $230/week. Or Braddock, PA Mayor John Fetterman who went on the “Colbert Report” offering his town for experiments because, well, they don’t even have a restaurant in the dwindling town.

I remember the excitement over the YouTube debate during the presidential campaign where actual people would get to ask questions about the candidates. But then, the “adults” screened the questions, so only questions that fit what they wanted aired during the debate.

The online town hall this week was a lot closer to what we’ve been looking for, getting closer to improving democracy.

Todd doesn’t seem like a bad guy, and he’s certainly not the worst White House reporter we’ve seen. But he committed the cardinal sin of the MSM: the assumption that they know us better than we do.

Todd’s other sin was saying he would try and failing miserably. If you are going to ask for our input, you better use it. Assuming Todd received truly heartfelt questions of those who are suffering, why didn’t they get representation in the news conference?

Getting input from real people is a great way to add to the quality of a presidential press conference question. But, Chuck Todd, you have to actually use the information in order for the process to work.


Written by democracysoup

March 27, 2009 at 10:06 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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