Thursday, June 25, 2009

The President as TV Pitchman

The White House and ABC are taking flak for their health care infomercial last night for the wrong reasons.

As usual, the objections are political, with Republicans complaining about the lack of a response with their side of the issue, but Americans would not have been well-served by giving GOP equal time for their usual carping about socialized medicine.

What's disturbing is seeing the White House as the locale for a special edition of "Primetime," heavily larded with commercials, in a format making a pitchman of the President with tendentious questioners being used as props.

Barack Obama has more verbal dexterity and charm than any late-night TV host, but it's demeaning and far from edifying to see him in that role, competing for ratings with "CSI:NY."

This leads to glib and unpersuasive answers about serious issues as the role of a public plan to compete with private insurers and the soaring costs of end-of-life care.

If the White House and the networks want to educate voters, let them put the President at a table with experts on medical economics and ethics for a discussion without news anchors controlling the clock and fishing for sound bites.

Such a show would not draw prime-time audience figures, but countless Americans who truly care about the country's future would be willing to stay up late or take time out from weekend leisure to listen and learn.

The White House should be aiming less for ratings than bringing those who are interested into the national debate.

1 comment:

oldfatherwilliam said...

Educating the voting public has always proven futile, if not counterproductive. Manipulation, however, has a magnificent history and no one your age can fail to be aware of that.