Rahmbo browbeat network heads to carry Obama's health care presser

It is the simple exercise of power. Obama's got more of it than the TV networks.

And if you have someone in the White House perfectly willing to exercise that power by making implied threats, there isn't much even giant corporations can do to deny Obama what he wants.

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post sniffed out the story regarding the networks cave-in to the White House on the health care press conference:

In the days before President Obama's last news conference, as the networks weighed whether to give up a chunk of their precious prime time, Rahm Emanuel went straight to the top.

Rather than calling ABC, the White House chief of staff phoned Bob Iger, chief executive of parent company Disney. Instead of contacting NBC, Emanuel went to Jeffrey Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric. He also spoke with Les Moonves, the chief executive of CBS, the company spun off from Viacom.

Whether this amounted to undue pressure or plain old Chicago arm-twisting, Emanuel got results: the fourth hour of lucrative network time for his boss in six months. But network executives have been privately complaining to White House officials that they cannot afford to keep airing these sessions in the current economic downturn.

The networks "absolutely" feel pressured, says Paul Friedman, CBS's senior vice president: "It's an enormous financial cost when the president replaces one of those prime-time hours. The news divisions also have mixed feelings about whether they are being used."

While it is interesting to see how a president handles questions, Friedman says, "there was nothing" at the July 22 session, which was dominated by health-care questions. "There hardly ever is these days, because there's so much coverage all the time.

Obama is basically a media creation. And like all media creations, the networks cannot resist overusing their new toy until the public gets tired of it. Ratings for Obama's last presser were way down and if it hadn't been for the Gates fiasco, nothing new would have come out of it.

But now the networks are stuck and Rhambo is taking full advantage. It is likely Obama will go to the well again in September or October, seeking another prime time hour to push for passage of whatever comes out of Congress on health care. It will take more arm twisting from Emanuel and probably some public shaming from Obama, but they will almost certainly get their way.

The media created this monster and now have to deal with the consequen


Hat Tip: Ed Lasky