Master of identity politics
The president sure has been making a lot of history lately. Cuba, immigration executive orders, and, of course, a historic shellacking in the midterms.
But Barack Obama isn't done, as he has been telling us. Yesterday at his year-end press conference, the president called on only women for questions. It's the first time in history that only females were called on to question the president at a White House press conference.
President Barack Obama took eight questions at his end-of-the-year press conference on Friday — all from women, none from television reporters.
The first question went to POLITICO’s Carrie Budoff Brown, followed by Bloomberg BNA’s Cheryl Bolen, The Associated Press’ Julie Pace, McClatchy’s Lesley Clark, Reuters’ Roberta Rampton, The Wall Street Journal’s Colleen Nelson, The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin and American Urban Radio Networks’ April Ryan.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the move was an intentional way to highlight female reporters.
"The fact is, there are many women from a variety of news organizations who day-in and day-out do the hard work of covering the President of the United States. As the questioner list started to come together, we realized that we had a unique opportunity to highlight that fact at the President’s closely watched, end of the year news conference," Earnest said.
The television networks were advised in advance that they were not going to be called upon because each of them has asked the president a question at least twice since November, and several of them have had exclusive interviews in that time.
The move elicited a Twitter-storm of reactions from the press corps, as did some of the incredibly candid answers from Obama on matters like Cuban-U.S. relations and Sony's decision to pull "The Interview."
“See how newsy press conferences can be when women ask the questions?” Gwen Ifill of "PBS NewsHour" tweeted.
Hard to tell if Ifill is being serious, or doing a little sack dance. It hardly matters. Once again, the president has shown himself to be a master of identity politics, slicing and dicing America into various constituencies based on race, gender, sexual identity, ethnicity, and religion. Amnesty for Hispanics. Racial sops to the black community. And he gets a twofer for his Cuba opening – Hispanics and far-left radicals.
The problem with identity politics is that it is a zero-sum game; "What have you done for me lately, Barry?" More and more concessions to the racial divide, the gender gap, and other divisions in America become necessary to keep everyone happy. It's no way to govern, and the Democratic constiuencies he's pandering to will eventually turn on him – and perhaps each other.
Yesterday's "triumph" for women was transparently silly. It even seems a little petty, given the circumstances. But that doesn't count when the president makes "history."