President Obama has promised to change the way the government does business, but in at least one respect he is taking a page from the Bush playbook, stocking his town hall Thursday with supporters whose soft — though far from planted — questions provided openings to discuss his preferred message of the day.
Obama has said, “I think it’s important to engage your critics … because not only will you occasionally change their mind but, more importantly, sometimes they will change your mind,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs recounted to The Post’s Lois Romano in an interview Wednesday.
But while the online question portion of the White House town hall was open to any member of the public with an Internet connection, the five fully identified questioners called on randomly by the president in the East Room were anything but a diverse lot. They included: a member of the pro-Obama Service Employees International Union, a member of the Democratic National Committee who campaigned for Obama among Hispanics during the primary; a former Democratic candidate for Virginia state delegate who endorsed Obama last fall in an op-ed in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star; and a Virginia businessman who was a donor to Obama’s campaign in 2008.
Hmmm. Sounds like the administration took tips from CNN on the issue of planted audience members. And speaking of, Tigerhawk has a brief recap of how CNN’s discussion panel glowingly talked about the Thursday town hall afterward.
Here’s what then-DNC Chair Howard Dean said of alleged “plants” at a McCain town hall meeting last year:
“Once again, John McCain’s campaign is trying to mislead the American people. Sen. McCain should understand that after seven years of a president who has divided Americans and pursued a scorched earth policy full of misleading propaganda campaigns, we need a leader who understands he is the president for all Americans, not just his supporters. Copying the Bush campaign model of stacking events with his prescreened supporters is not the transparency Americans are looking for. If that is Sen. McCain’s idea of straight talk, the American people are in for a long and disappointing campaign season.” (6-13-08)
No comment yet from Dean on the report about the stacked town hall audience for Obama. Maybe when he gets done sipping tea with Keith Olbermann, he’ll take the time to weigh in.
Flashback – 2008: