Sunday, December 07, 2008

Enter Obama, Exit Brokaw

Today's Meet the Press was a scene of passage between the 21st century president-to-be and a media giant of the past, less striking for what was said than the display of intelligence and grace that has been so rare on the public stage for many years.

A month after his election and more than that before taking office, Barack Obama seems effortlessly presidential as he discusses the failing economy, corporate bailouts as well as military and diplomatic challenges in a dangerous world.

In his first months, Obama will face a balancing act--to jump-start the economy in ways consistent with "long-term, sustainable economic growth...investing in the largest infrastructure program--in roads and bridges and, and other traditional infrastructure--since the building of the federal highway system in the 1950s; rebuilding our schools and making sure that they're energy-efficient; making sure that we're investing in electronic medical records and other technologies that can drive down health care costs...down payments on the kind of long-term, sustainable growth that we need."

Doing that will take unprecedented leadership skills working with a Congress of competing interests and ideologies, but the new administration starts with a good deal of hope and good will aroused by a new president who can communicate with the public.

Seeing him interviewed by Brokaw, who took over Meet the Press when Tim Russert died suddenly in June, is a reminder of the media obligation to focus on what politicians are saying and doing and hold them to account with tough but fair questioning.

Both sides of the equation are in transition as David Gregory takes over the Sunday morning talkfest for a new era, but watching Obama with Brokaw was a reminder of how useful the process can be.

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