Another Swipe From Obama At "Cable Chatter"

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

It's not "press coverage" that bothers President Obama. It's "cable chatter."

By that he means the cacophony of pundits on the cable news channels endlessly chewing over his pronouncements, policies and motives.

Addressing the nation's governors this morning in the East Room, he said he welcomed "healthy debate" about the massive $787-billion economic stimulus bill he signed into law last Tuesday.

"That keeps my on my toes," he said, "It keeps our administration on our toes."

But he thinks that some of those offering their views on the cable news channels do more to obfuscate than illuminate – and he believes his economic objective "gets lost in the cable chatter."

He concedes some have "very legitimate concerns" about the sustainability of expanding unemployment insurance. But he says it's a relatively small part of the stimulus.

"What hasn't been noted is that it's $7-billion of a $787-billion program," he said.

He's concerned that nit-picking doesn't amount to "an honest debate."

"If we agree on 90 percent of the stuff, and we're spending all our time on television arguing about 1, 2, 3 percent of the spending in this thing and somehow it's being characterized in broad brush as wasteful spending, that starts sounding more like politics -- and that's what right now we don't have time to do."

It's not the first time Mr. Obama has lamented publicly about "cable chatter."

Addressing House Democrats earlier this morning at their caucus in Williamsburg, Virginia, he complained about the "tired arguments and worn ideas" he was up against in trying to win support for the stimulus package.

"They did not send us here to get bogged down with the same old delay, the same old distractions, the same talking points (and) the same cable chatter."

"Aren't you all tired of that stuff," he asked his audience rhetorically?

It's clear he is. And the frustration was reflected even more pointedly last Friday by his spokesman, Robert Gibbs. Where his boss hears chatter, Gibbs hears rants.

"I also think it's tremendously important that for people who rant on cable television to be responsible and understand what it is they're talking about," said Gibbs, singling out the commentary of CNBC's Rick Santelli, who delivered a blunt denunciation of the President's plan to help troubled homeowners facing foreclosure.

At the same time, Gibbs questioned the credibility of cable news – charging they got it wrong about Mr. Obama during the campaign as well.

"If I hadn't worked on the campaign but simply watched the cable news scorekeeping of the campaign – we lost virtually every day of the race," said Gibbs.

He said that if he had just watched the cable news channels back then, "I long would have crawled into a hole and given up this whole prospect of changing the country."

There's nothing new about politicians complaining about what's written and said about them.

Perhaps the most famous press complaint from a politician came decades before cable news, when failed presidential and gubernatorial candidate Richard Nixon told reporters in 1962: "Just think how much you're going to be missing. You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore."

Of course, he gave the press many more chances, twice again running for and winning the presidency – only to resign under threat of impeachment in 1974.


(CBS)
Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here.
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    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.

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