John Feehery: Speaking Engagements



Posted on July 27, 2009

The President made a giant mistake at his press conference on Wednesday night. He gave the media an excuse not to talk about health care, a ratings killer, and move to a more sexy topic, racism in America.

You have to give the cable shows credit, though. They have tried to make health care reform sound like the gunfight at the OK Corral. They hyped the President’s press conference last week as if it were a State of the Union Address. Even the foreign press paid attention, sent stringers and spent valuable resources covering the non-story.

Let’s face it. Whether we do a public option or not makes very little difference to the Brits or the Irish or the French. But they were suckered into thinking that POTUS would make big news on health care.

He made big news all right. But it wasn’t on health care.

Certain members of the media have admitted that health care reform is not a very good for the cable bottom line. Dylan Ratigan said on MSNBC that: “health care is a ratings disaster.” John Harwood of the New York Times put it more starkly, “It’s not only not a cable TV-friendly story, it’s not a journalism-friendly story.”

But a discussion of racism is perfect for ratings. That, Sarah Palin (thank you Governor for quitting and giving the cables something else to talk about), and of course, the brewing controversy regarding whether Barack Obama was born in America.

Give me racism, Palin and the birther movement, and I will give you a cable network, thank you very much.

Perhaps the President was doing this on purpose because he thought that the debate over health care reform was not going his way. Perhaps he believed that the more the American people understood about what he was trying to do on health care, the less they liked about it. And the latest polls would bear that out. The President’s positions are dropping faster than the stock market did last September.

After all bankruptcy, debt and huge tax increases or much more interesting and move voters more than the discussion over a “public option”, talk about “bending the cost curve” and other policies the President might have wanted to get out there.

But cable can only handle so much in-depth discussion on real public policy debates. Give them Michael Jackson, a car-chase, or whatever clothes Michelle Obama is wearing, and then they feel good about their ratings.

But health care? TMI…