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A good 'View' for Obama

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President Obama sits down and answers some light-hearted questions on 'The View.'

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 30, 2010; 1:23 PM

Anyone who scoffed at the president's decision to hang with Whoopi and the gang was out to lunch.

That includes you, Rosie.

The appearance was good for him, good for "The View" and, incidentally, good for the audience.

Yes, the world was not panting to find out that the president of the United States doesn't know who Snooki is. And, as a Twitter enthusiast, I was personally crushed to learn that he knows nothing about his account other than that "some 20-year-old" is tweeting for him.

But amid the chatter about pop culture and Michelle and the kids, there was actually an enlightening discussion about race, Shirley Sherrod, Afghanistan and the administration's political difficulties. Obama was especially interesting when Barbara Walters said, "You do not describe yourself as a black president, but that's the way you're described. Your mother was white. Would it be helpful, or why don't you say, 'I'm not a black president, I'm biracial'?"

David Gregory or Bob Schieffer wouldn't have asked that question, and that's the value of appearing on a different kind of talk show.

This little flap about whether it was sufficiently dignified for a POTUS to appear on daytime television was like something out of a time warp. That debate ended when Bill Clinton played the sax for Arsenio back in 1992 and he and the candidates that year were interviewed not only by Larry King but by MTV. As president, Clinton boasted that King had "liberated" him "by giving me to the American people directly."

But nearly two decades later, with presidential candidates chatting up Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, with Obama already having done Leno and Letterman, the argument is silly. Walters, who made an early return from her heart-valve surgery to appear at the taping, knows how to handle presidents.

Sure, Obama wasn't exactly grilled. There should have been a question on immigration, and some of his answers (We were losing jobs when I took over) were well-rehearsed. But even Joy Behar, a fan of the president, asked what his "narrative" was -- this after declaring that the right wing and Fox News were "hijacking the narrative." (Is that illegal?) And Elisabeth Hasselbeck, as the resident conservative, asked pointed but respectful questions on, for instance, unemployment.

No one asked whether it was dignified for Obama to talk bracketology on ESPN or play hoops with CBS's Clark Kellogg. Whoopi and company acquitted themselves well.

Wiki leaking popularity

Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, has been giving one interview after another and isn't winning many fans. At the Daily Beast, Tunku Varadarajan has a visceral reaction:

"With his bloodless, sallow face, his lank hair drained of all color, his languorous, very un-Australian limbs, and his aura of blinding pallor that appears to admit no nuance, Assange looks every inch the amoral, uber-nerd villain, icily detached from the real world of moral choices in which the rest of us saps live. Call him the Unaleaker, with apologies to the victims of Ted Kaczynski. . . .


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