At a news conference today, the president gave a 376-word answer to a question about Donald Trump, and apparently the media -- or at least one hack -- deemed the answer TL;DR.
Here's how The Hill reported the exchange:
President Obama on Friday urged the news media to closely scrutinize Donald Trump’s record and past comments, and avoid coverage that highlights “the spectacle and the circus” of the campaign trail.
Obama previewed his role as an anti-Trump spokesman and pressed the media to follow suit.
“He has a long record that needs to be examined. And I think it’s important to take seriously the statements he’s made in the past,” the president told reporters at the White House. “I just want to emphasize that we are in serious times and this is a serious job.”
Obama took a jab at Trump’s past as host of the “Apprentice” reality television series: “This is not entertainment, this is not a reality show, this is a contest for president of the United States.”
Here's what Fox's Howard Kurtz tweeted:
Obama, asked about Trump, says media shouldn't focus on campaign spectacles. Didn't he give convention speech in stadium with Roman columns?
— HowardKurtz (@HowardKurtz) May 6, 2016
And here was his follow-up an hour later:
Weird pushback on my tweet on Obama criticizing 2016 "spectacles." All pols decry the entertainment aspect of campaigns but also cater to it
— HowardKurtz (@HowardKurtz) May 6, 2016
Now, here's the president's full answer to the question, with emphasis added:
THE PRESIDENT: Well, with respect to the Republican process and Mr. Trump, there’s going to be plenty of time to talk about his positions on various issues. He has a long record that needs to be examined, and I think it's important for us to take seriously the statements he’s made in the past.
But most importantly -- and I speak to all of you in this room as reporters, as well as the American public -- I just want to emphasize the degree to which we are in serious times and this is a really serious job. This is not entertainment. This is not a reality show. This is a contest for the presidency of the United States.
And what that means is that every candidate, every nominee needs to be subject to exacting standards and genuine scrutiny. It means that you got to make sure that their budgets add up. It means that if they say they got an answer to a problem that it is actually plausible and that they have details for how it would work. And if it's completely implausible and would not work, that needs to be reported on. The American people need to know that. If they take a position on international issues that could threaten war, or has the potential of upending our critical relationships with other countries, or would potentially break the financial system, that needs to be reported on.
And the one thing that I'm going to really be looking for over the next six months is that the American people are effectively informed about where candidates stand on the issues, what they believe, making sure that their numbers add up, making sure that their policies have been vetted and that candidates are held to what they’ve said in the past.
And if that happens, then I'm confident our democracy will work. And that's true whether we're talking about Mr. Trump or Ms. Clinton, or Bernie Sanders, or anybody else. But what I'm concerned about is the degree to which reporting and information starts emphasizing the spectacle and the circus, because that's not something we can afford. And the American people, they’ve got good judgment, they’ve got good instincts, as long as they get good information.
President Obama is not saying that spectacle has no place in politics. There's nothing in here that's hypocritical, even though he's certainly used spectacle and celebrity at times to communicate with the public. Obama's point is that the media needs to examine the policy positions even of a highly entertaining candidate, and needs to tell us whether those positions are well-informed and credible. Did the "Roman columns" speech or various celebrity encounters so blind the media that Obama's policies went unexamined? No. What he stands for has been thoroughly scrutinized. Trump? In much of the press, it's all about the jet and the hair and the glitz and the taco bowl.
It's really not hard to figure this out -- unless you're a hack like Kurtz.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog