The political story of the afternoon is President Obama's address to
the House Republican retreat and the riveting Q&A
session that followed. Commentators are delighted by the frank
exchanges and unscripted debate that unfolded. Several are comparing it
to the famous rough-and-tumble of British parliamentary politics. In fact, both
liberals and conservatives want to see more, and there's a distinct
bipartisan feeling that this may have been one of the president's
better moves. A small sample, below (the Post has some of the Q&A transcript here), with the commentators' reactions:
Man, This is Good " I don't know if this
will have any long-term effect, but it's good for Obama and,
regardless, a good show. Presidents should do this kind of thing more
often," says liberal Kevin Drum (He and Matt Yglesias that both think the president was "running rings around them").
Another? "This became what could be the first publicly-held President's Question
Time, and Obama was quick on his feet," concludes Eric Kleefeld in a report for Talking Points Memo. "Will something like this happen
'Address Is Not Quite the Right Word,' marvels the Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan, "because it was a genuine--and
remarkable--conversation between Obama and his political opponents--transparently on CSPAN." His takeaway? "I remain depressed at the prospects for a breakthrough, but this was
good politics and good policy. More, please. Do this every month." He likes the idea of Obama as "therapist in chief."
'Fun Times All Around,' says conservative Meredith Jessup at Townhall. Her favorite parts were the "Republicans who have stood
up and told the President how the GOP has NOT been obstructive," and those who accused the president of lying "about employing lobbyists in his administration."
Great Television "Why not replace the SOTU with this sort of thing?" Asks conservative National Review's Daniel Foster, transfixed. Summing up the event, he adds, "maybe
it's just that the novelty of the Q&A has yet to wear off, but that
was--for lack of a better phrase--pretty cool." His favorite part: the
"back-and-forth" with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), "as it was clear that the president realized he
was in the presence of a razor-sharp wonk and one of the most effective
critics of his administration." Calling the entire event "remarkable," he says "more remarkable still is that it would be hard to argue the exchange
is anything but a plus-plus for Obama and the GOP. Both sides emerged
from it looking as if, contra the public's greatest fears, they more or
less know what they are talking about on issues like the deficit and
'I Don't Recall Ever Seeing This Before in My Life,' says the Guardian's Michael Tomasky. "Whichever side you're on, this was fascinating television." Though he doesn't think the president "won every point," nor that he "changed a mind in the room," he still thinks it "a remarkably candid piece of political television, especially for this day and age." The only complaint? He wishes it had been on prime time, to get more viewers.
Both Sides Civil, Earnest Tweets conservative Kathryn Jean Lopez, "i think everyone who participated in that Q&A exchange can spin it to his advantage. and it sure beats one-way lectures." Her National Review colleague Jim Geraghty agrees: "it was the antidote to everything that was insufferable about the State of the Union--the uninterrupted platitudes, the dishonest framing, the aversion to acknowledging alternative views, the endless droning, etc." Furthermore, he adds "the questions from the Republicans were pointed but fair." Like many, Geraghty wonders when we can expect a repeat performance.
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