Obama’s crafty open-mic moments


At a closed-door (to the press) fundraiser in Chicago last week, Obama talked about how he dressed down House Republicans during the negotiations to avoid a government shutdown earlier this month:

“I said, ‘You want to repeal health care?’ Go at it,” Obama told the crowd. “We’ll have that debate. You're not going to be able to do that by nickel-and-diming me in the budget. You think we’re stupid?’” His comments on Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee and author of “The Path to Prosperity,” show a behind-the-scene toughness that runs counter to his diplomatic and frustrating public mien.

Then came the video yesterday from the exclusive interview Obama granted a television reporter from Texas.

At the end of the interview, Obama is heard telling the reporter, Brad Watson, “Let me finish my answers the next time we do an interview, all right?”

Okay, I’ll admit it. I didn’t like the tone of some of Watson’s questions. There’s a way to ask the president of the United States a tough question or push back on an answer without seeming priggish. In his report Watson said Obama’s snippiness was an indication that he doesn’t like his comments challenged. I doubt that. Obama has shown time and again that he likes a good and vigorous debate. What he doesn’t like is mindless point-scoring.  

Yes, both instances show a president who can be prickly. But the bigger lesson here is that they show a president who wants you to know that he won’t be played.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.

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