The press gallery won’t let old partisan attack go

From the Obama visit to Parliament Hill yesterday, the CBC’s Susan Bonner assesses what made an impression upon her and her media colleagues,

“The impression seemed to be that Stephen Harper had a message that he wanted to deliver directly to Americans about the border and about security and about trade and he was pushing those media messages directly to talk to an American audience. So those were the money comments from my point of my and from my colleagues in the room’s point of view, from the Prime Minister of Canada. From the President, the stand-out for all of us in the room was “I love this country”, President Obama saying that. Remember back to a couple of election campaigns [ago], one of the first questions asked of Stephen Harper was if he loved Canada because he seems to be, at the time it was seen that he was awkward with this kind of language and yet you saw the President of the United States volunteering this and saying it quite casually and warmly so that was the buzz among the media as we waited, penned up, to be released to get out here and talk to our various outlets.” — Susan Bonner, CBC

A couple of noteworthy items here. What made an impression upon the media was the Prime Minister’s talk about bilateral policy issues. What made an impression about the President was his emotion — “I love this country”. While the PM made an impression about public policy, the press was swooned by Obama’s love.

Also, you’ll remember, the Prime Minister was asked “Do you love your country” and he was asked this in 2005! This was two election campaigns ago! So, when the pack mentality of the Parliamentary Press Gallery got buzzing amongst themselves yesterday they remember Obama’s toss away line most clearly and also the finer details of a partisan attack from 2005.

Get over it guys. Focusing on the unsubstantial, equating Harper’s public policy positions with Obama’s “love” as the take two take-home messages, snapping pictures with your cheap digital cameras during a bilateral meeting with the President of the United States so you can tag it on Facebook and email it to your friends reflects upon your professionalism. I’m surprised I didn’t see a flack standing behind Obama talking on his cellphone waving at his buddies watching on television. The guild has strict policy against using “media tools” for “non-journalistic purposes” (this is a subjective and institutional definition) in the Parliametary precinct. For instance, you might see Press Gallery officials chide tourists for taking pictures of a scrum as they pass by on their tour. For this press conference, it was predetermined that there were to be four questions asked from four reporters but yet there were 40 members of the media present. I watched the news conference on the pool feed. I suppose this freed me to watch like everyone else instead of playing political tourist on Obama day.

But the biggest impression of reporters at the press conference? That Obama states that loves Canada “casually and warmly” and Harper, well that guy shakes hands with his kids, right?

Does Harper love Canada?

Let it go.

Watching Obama’s visit on Facebook

There were only about 1000 people on Parliament Hill today to greet President Obama as much of downtown was locked down. There were barricades and security officials on the MacKenzie King bridge and checkpoints a plenty as the Parliamentary precinct was secured for Obama’s seven hour visit. Barricades also line Wellington street past Sussex through Rideau and also cover the street to the US embassy.

Staying away from the fray, I’m tracking the Obama visit passively via status updates on Facebook. Here’s a sample.

F – if this was Bush, they’d be calling it a police state.

J is irritated that Air Force One delayed flights at Ottawa International today, and that all of Ottawa is going crazy b/c of President Obama…

S is chuckling at the Canadian news media who are all experiencing the big O.

R can’t shake the feeling that there’s something going on here today. I guess everyone else is excited about the Oilers taking on the Stars tonight too.

N saw obama in his motorcade, and did not experience any change.

B is demanding 20 minutes with Obama as well.

A is happy for Ottawa’s leper community today.

R is Obamatastic!

E just missed barack in the stairwell… saw his entourage.

S questions the sanity of the people calling in to cpac.

C counted from his office window 40 vehicles and 2 helicopters in the Obama entourage

B is stuck in traffic, why didn’t the President just fly to the Hill like a superhero? Or he could have walked on the canal proving he can walk on water.

L just saw the motorcade go by! Video to follow!

H is going to the Obama press conference!

J is wondering – can Canadian media get any stupider over a Presidential visit? “Yes they Canada!”

Z thinks that if they’re going to close the city down, it might as well be a holiday.

J is wondering were the anti-war protesters are?

E – OBAMA IS HERE! EVERYBODY FREAK OUT

Obama motorcade arrives in Ottawa

Picture taken on Sussex today just outside the US embassy.  President Obama’s motorcade arrives in Ottawa.

The Presidential limo is just out of frame on the right.  There’s an indent on the door where a magnetic presidential seal is affixed when the President is in the limo.  The second vehicle to the right in the photo is a Chevy Suburban and has an interesting feature that any self-respecting motorcade should have:

There are usually 15 cars in the motorcade including two “presidential” limos. One limo serves as a security decoy and both are missile proof.

Perhaps Harper’s “Bush-like” motorcade can upgrade itself to “Obama class”,

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s motorcade has acquired a presidential look.

But one MP says the big black SUV now cruising at the rear of the entourage is a bit too remindful of President George W. Bush.

And its gas-chugging potential raises other issues, even for a prime minister who ditched the Kyoto accord, says New Democrat Pat Martin.

CBC gets Obama

There are reports today that the CBC has secured a pre-visit interview from US President Barack Obama.  Congratulations to the team at the public broadcaster, for any network that’s what they call an exclusive in the biz.

These sorts of of coups are usually a combination of networking, of credibility and of audience, but to be serious, it’s mostly like anything else in politics, media or business; it’s the strong interpersonal contacts that one builds up that open most doors.

This reminds me of when I found myself at the intersection of US politics and the media.  Last year, during the election at which Obama would ultimately succeed, his GOP opponent John McCain took a history-making detour to Canada.  Never before had a major-party candidate for President visited our country during an election.

Since the event was political, and in Ottawa, the political flacks of this town registered through their centralized guild that is the Parliamentary Press Gallery.  Since the press conference would occur off of Parliament Hill and outside of the sphere of control of the Gallery, I called the press office of the McCain campaign.  Could a blogger get credentials for a press conference with a presidential candidate? Yes.

During McCain’s speech at the Chateau Laurier a producer from CBC spotted me and was puzzled by my media credentials and asked how I got credentialed.  I told them that I called the campaign and easily set it up.  The producer then explained that it had been very difficult for them to get a one-on-one interview with the GOP nominee and asked if I could make a call to set up an interview for the CBC.  Political capital is a real currency in both Washington and Ottawa.  Though I have some friends over at the public broadcaster, I wasn’t about to spend any capital on the CBC that day.

At the press conference, I asked a simple question to get McCain on record for his first foreign trip if he should become President.  I asked if it would be Canada, he cracked a joke but then mused seriously, “why not?”

This week President Obama will make that first foreign visit of the 44th Presidency.  In the tradition of Presidents Reagan and Clinton, Canada will be his first international destination.  And, as in most “gets” in news media, it does come down to who you can get on the phone.

My congratulations to the CBC for their good connections — already established and newly formed — into the Democratic Party, it will serve them well as they cover the Obama administration in Washington.  However, nobody was shocked when Fox News scored exclusives with the 43rd man to serve as POTUS during his two terms.

I wouldn’t be surprised if CTV and Canwest are now looking into the rights to such CBC favourites as “Fahrenheit 9/11“, “The World According to Bush“, and “The Unauthorized biography of Dick Cheney: Ascent to Power“.  It’s a pity that CBC’s invested capital in “The Arrow“, “Trudeau: The Man, The Myth, The Movie“, “Trudeau II: Maverick in the Making” and “The Fifth Estate: Mulroney” isn’t paying dividends in the domestic market.

FINALLY: Partisan bickering and CBC institutional teasing aside, the Obama interview is a great get and the people who set this up deserve a lot of credit.