John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Be Careful What You Wish For

Posted on August 3, 2009



            In the department of “be careful what you wish for”, the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz has an interesting column about the efforts of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to get the major networks to cover the President’s lame press conference the other day.


            As Kurtz relates it:  “In the days before President Obama's last news conference, as the networks weighed whether to give up a chunk of their precious prime time, Rahm Emanuel went straight to the top. Rather than calling ABC, the White House chief of staff phoned Bob Iger, chief executive of parent company Disney. Instead of contacting NBC, Emanuel went to Jeffrey Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric. He also spoke with Les Moonves, the chief executive of CBS, the company spun off from Viacom. … Emanuel got results: the fourth hour of lucrative network time for his boss in six months. But network executives have been privately complaining to White House officials that they cannot afford to keep airing these sessions in the current economic downturn. The networks ‘absolutely’ feel pressured, says Paul Friedman, CBS's senior vice president: ‘It's an enormous financial cost when the president replaces one of those prime-time hours. The news divisions also have mixed feelings about whether they are being used.’ While it is interesting to see how a president handles questions, Friedman says, ‘there was nothing’ at the July 22 session, which was dominated by health-care questions. ‘There hardly ever is these days, because there's so much coverage all the time.’ …”


            Hmmm…wonder how that worked out for Rahmbo and his merry White House men.


            Imagine if the President didn’t do that press conference.  We wouldn’t have had such a nice discussion about the state of race relations and the importance of beer in getting people to talk candidly about how much the dislike each other.


            The whole episode reminds me of that great song from Alanis Morrisette, “Isn’t it Ironic”.


Its like rain on your wedding day

Its a free ride when youve already paid

Its the good advice that you just didnt take

Who wouldve thought... it figures


Mr. play it safe was afraid to fly

He packed his suitcase and kissed his kids goodbye

He waited his whole damn life to take that flight

And as the plane crashed down he thought

Well isnt this nice...

And isnt it ironic... dont you think?


            In the department of good advice that you just didn’t take, plenty of outsiders have tried to advise this White House to not bite off more than it can chew, not create huge new spending programs that we can’t afford, not create huge new bureaucracies, focus on solution and not ideologies, work with Republicans, govern from the center, etc etc etc.


            But the President has largely ignored that advice.  And now his poll numbers are sinking faster than the Titanic.


            It is altogether inappropriate for the President’s top advisor to pressure top executives, like Bob Iger and Jeff Imelt, both of the whom have plenty of government business and plenty of reasons to keep the President happy, to breach the so-called Chinese wall between corporate business and the news business.


            If George Bush had tried to pull that off, he would have skewered in the media mercilessly. 


            But Rahm got what he wanted.  A prime time news conference where the only news was created when the President said a cop acted stupidly. 


            Now, isn’t that ironic?  

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