I thought this exchange at today's town-hall session in Elkhart with President Obama signified another real change he brings to the presidency. It was revealed not so much in its content but in that it occurred at all:
Q Thank you. My question is, you have -- my name is Tara. You have come to our county and asked us to trust you, but those that you have appointed to your Cabinet are not trustworthy and can't handle their own budget and taxes.
THE PRESIDENT: No, no, no, this is a legitimate -- this is a legitimate question.
Q So I'm one of those that thinks you need to have a beer with Sean Hannity. So tell me why, from my side, we can understand --
THE PRESIDENT: No, that's okay. That's okay. No, no, look, I think it was a perfectly legitimate question.
First of all, I appoint -- I've appointed hundreds of people, all of whom are outstanding Americans who are doing a great job. There are a couple who had problems before they came into my administration in terms of -- in terms of their taxes. Look -- and I think this is a legitimate criticism that people have made, because you can't expect one set of folks to not pay their taxes when everybody else is paying theirs. So I think that's a legitimate concern. (Applause.)
I will tell you that the individuals at issue here, I know them personally, and I think these were honest mistakes. And I made sure they were honest mistakes beforehand. And one of the things I discovered is if you're not going to appoint anybody whose ever made a mistake in your [sic] life, then you're not going to have anybody taking your job. So -- (applause) --
But having said that, what I did acknowledge -- and I said it publicly on just about every TV station -- is something that you probably sometimes don't hear from politicians, which is: I made a mistake. (Applause.) And that, because I don't want to send the signal that they're two sets of rules.
Now, understand, though, I think something that should also be mentioned is that we've set up an unprecedented set of ethics rules in my White House where we are not -- we are not -- everybody will acknowledge that we have set up the highest standard ever for lobbyists not working in the administration; people who work in my administration aren't going to be able to go out the revolving door and start working for some lobbying firm and lobbying the White House. Republicans and Democrats have acknowledged that there's a very high bar that we've set for ourselves. We have not been perfect, but we are changing the culture in Washington and it's going to take some time.
Now, with respect to Sean Hannity, I didn't know that he had invited me for a beer. (Laughter.) But I will take that under advisement. (Laughter.) Generally, his opinion of me does not seem to be very high -- (laughter) -- but I'm always good for a beer, so -- (laughter and applause.)
Anyone remember the Potemkin Village quality of George W. Bush's "town hall" appearances? How everyone was prescreened, and uncomfortable or difficult questions -- let alone questions posed by someone from the other side of the political aisle -- were never ever EVER asked?
I think there are good reasons to question a lot of what Obama's done so far. But it's clear he's not going to be living in the little bubble conservatives built around George W. Bush for his tenure.
Hannity, FWIW, hopped on the phone and told his Fox colleagues he'd be buying:
Ali Frick at Think Progress has more.