President Obama has promised to change the way the government does business, but in at least one respect he is taking a page from the Bush playbook, stocking his town hall Thursday with supporters whose soft — though far from planted — questions provided openings to discuss his preferred message of the day.
But while the online question portion of the White House town hall was open to any member of the public with an Internet connection, the five fully identified questioners called on randomly by the president in the East Room were anything but a diverse lot. They included: a member of the pro-Obama Service Employees International Union, a member of the Democratic National Committee who campaigned for Obama among Hispanics during the primary; a former Democratic candidate for Virginia state delegate who endorsed Obama last fall in an op-ed in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star; and a Virginia businessman who was a donor to Obama’s campaign in 2008.
Gosh, Garance Franke-Ruta couldn’t resist getting that little dig in at Bush, could she? Her statement is, by the way, not actually true. The President never seeded a single town hall meeting or press conference with folks willing to toss him softball questions. She owes our former President a retraction and an apology.
But beyond that, this just seems par for the Obama course. When he starts to feel the heat, he runs back to the nearest adoring crowd. If he can’t get out to one, he’ll bring one back to him, as he did last week. Despite that, as Jeff Goldstein points out, he still managed to look baffled by even the softest of questions.
Pay special attention to who the questioners represented. It would be an interesting homework assignment to find out just how much those groups have donated to the Democratic Party and President Obama’s campaign in the past two years.