October 29, 2013

CNN's Wolf Blitzer seems to think he should be President, because clearly he has all the answers and none of the pressure. Today's episode of "What President Obama Should Have Done" suggested that President Obama is incompetent or surrounded by incompetents, using news of the NSA bugging world leaders' personal cell phones and the HealthcareDotGov website launch as object lessons.

Ideally, news people should have a memory that stretches back farther than a month or so, but evidently Blitzer's hard drive is out of memory, because he begins with Kathleen Sebelius' "admission" that Obama wasn't told about the website problems when Healthcare.gov launched Oct. 1.

Blitzer forgets there were a few other things happening that day, like Republicans shutting down the government and sending the nation careening toward debt default, restive officials in the Middle East, and decisions about whether to cancel his trip to Southeast Asia to work on trade agreements.

When Gloria Borger jumps into the conversation with Blitzer, things really heat up, particularly over news that the NSA did not inform the President that they were tapping into the personal cell phones of world leaders. One might actually have inferred that from the fact that they didn't get anything worth using, because, well...it was a personal phone. One might also assume that if they had informed the President, it would have immediately been brought to an end as it was when the news came out.

For Wolf Blitzer, this is all Obama's fault. For Gloria Borger, it's just another example of how government doesn't work.

Both of those are false frames. Borger says, "I have a hard time believing the President didn't ask 'How's my rollout going?'" and Blitzer righteously exclaims "This is his signature issue...You'd think before the October rollout he'd call in Sebelius, he'd call in others, and say 'Everything ready to go'?"

Because of course, these two would do that.

For the capstone, Wolf channels his inner President, and wonders whether President Obama isn't asking himself whether he should have been more assertive or aggressive in getting answers.

This is a ridiculous segment from start to end and does nothing to illuminate a reasonable discussion about very real issues around procurement, contractors and oversight - both with the website and NSA spying. Clearly, the NSA is operating without appropriate constraints. Similarly, the rollout of the health care website involved many moving parts which are not working well together and which might have been better accomplished by in-house engineers rather than several different private contractors. Those are real issues, and an intelligent discussion would actually inform viewers.

By making this into a What-did-Obama-know-and-when-did-he-know-it moment, they're just playing the Fox News game of turning everything into a controversy, rather than trying to inform viewers or raise legitimate questions that could lead to a constructive discussion of how government works and where oversight should be strengthened.

Once again, we are treated like stupid little sponges with no actual vested interest in the success of a government by, for, and of the people. Because Obama.

By the way, you know who else had a disastrous website launch back in the day? CNN. That's right. Their initial debut on the web was an unmitigated disaster. I was there. I lived through the six-month process of getting it stabilized. And throughout that time, there wasn't a peep from Wolf about it.

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