President Obama on Letterman: No TV magic here

Watching President Barack Obama Monday night on David Letterman, I couldn't help thinking: The TV thrill really is gone.

The excitement I felt seeing him the first time on a late night show with Jay Leno, for example, has been replaced by a sense lately that he is on TV everywhere all the time and saying the same thing over and over and over. One almost wonders if his senior staff shouldn't consider an intervention: No more TV for a while, Mr. President. Let's focus on this governing thing and stay off the tube. You're in danger of starting to feel like a rerun.

With all the appearances and less than inspired performances, it is almost as if the president has come to believe that if he just keeps showing up on TV over and over and over, his message will carry the day and he will regain control of the health care debate.

Monday night's stop on "Late Show with David Letterman" was only the latest example -- a replay of his five lackluster Sunday appearances.

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Letterman teed up beachball questions for the president and when the leader of the free world didn't spike one home, the talk show host would jump in with comments like, "I can't tell you how satisfying it is to watch you work."

But I had heard the points made on Letterman already sounded on several channels Sunday morning -- and in prime time the Sunday before that on "60 Minutes" when this latest TV blitz started.

The pattern has come to involve the interviewer saying how ugly political discourse has become, and then asking the president if he thinks the criticism of him might involve racism.

And the president gets to go high road saying, while one can never totally dismiss the possiblity of racism, that's not the deal for most Americans, as he sees it. After all, a majority did elect him.

As he explained it to Letterman: "I actually think that what’s happened is that whenever a president tries to bring about significant changes, particularly during times of economic unease, then there is a certain segment of the population that gets very riled up. ...FDR was called a socialist and a communist. JFK, there were all kinds of names hurled at him. Ronald Reagan, when he came into office, he was moving in a different direction and people were sure that he was bringing the country down. And so, this is not untypical. You know, one of the things you sign up for in politics is folks yell at you."

Nice job of linking himself to the FDR, JFK and Reagan. And nice company to be in. But he has hit that note before, and it is starting to sound too rehearsed.

Or maybe the president is just getting punchy from too many TV appearances. As Lynn Sweet pointed out in her Daily FLOTUS blog, the president mixed up the names of his daughter Malia and his half-sister Maya in his Sunday interview with CNN's John King. 

Small slip? Maybe.

But also maybe taping five interviews back to back in one day is too much TV and not enough time for a first-rate mind to recharge, focus and be at the top of its game -- at a time when the country desperately needs it to be.


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