President Obama was on Jay Leno’s show last night, and showed again how comfortable he is in his clothes. He could have changed seats with Leno, and the show would have been none the worse for it. But Obama has an annoying speech mannerism that I first noticed during the campaign and that showed up three or four times last night. When he is asked a question, he frequently takes a breath and begins the answer with,”Look ….” The inflection suggests impatience if not condescension. Cokie Roberts has the same mannerism with the same inflection. Maybe some coach can help Obama get rid of it. Of course, the context for this observation is that Obama is president of the United States, Roberts is an NPR political analyst, and I’m an unemployed journalist and, oh, such a critic.



The television networks are getting impatient with President Obama’s requests for prime time. He’s holding a press conference on Tuesday, and that will mean – among other things – that “American Idol” will have to shift to a Wednesday-Thursday schedule. More than that, the networks will again lose top-dollar revenue that they can never recoup. Doesn’t the economic recovery program apply to them, they ask. I had a fleeting thought that the problem could be solved simply by moving Obama’s prime-time appearances off the major networks; that would separate the men from the boys, as it were, when Neilsen reported how the president did when he was up against Adam Lambert. I’d like to cast the networks as villains in this, but I can see their point even if I don’t think their revenues are more important than a public well informed on what the president is thinking in the present circumstances. I don’t have to balance their books. What concerns me more is that Obama is already overexposed, and the public may get weary of him and stop listening in the same way that it stopped paying attention to the color-coded terrorism alerts from the previous administration. As it is, expectations were unreasonably high when he took office, and the weeks since then have disabused most people from thinking they’ll see postive results overnight or in a week or a month or a year. His live TV appearances – especially following on an administration that avoided such exposure – may still be raising expectations, but that is likely to wear off. I read somewhere today that Obama is considering a series of much shorter appearances – something along the lines of Franklin Roosevelt’s radio addresses.

That reminds me of the movie “Room Service” and a scene in which Groucho Marx is trying to convince a playwright to go home to Oswego, appealing to the young man to picture his mother waiting by the fireside. “We don’t have a fireside,” the playwright says. “No fireside?” says Groucho. “How do you listen to the president’s speeches?”