Obama’s First State Dinner Mesmerizes Washington Press Corps


Obama-mania meets Bollywood spectacle as the Washington press corps is going a little starstruck over Obama’s first State Dinner with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The Washington Post and Politico are devoting special sections on their websites to the event and CNN is already on the story.  Several outlets are planning live video coverage of the dinner and receiving line.

In a town where a good celebrity citing is Fed chief Ben Bernanke or ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, things get a little out-of-control for the White House press when they find out A.R. Rahman and Jennifer Hudson are going to be serenading guests. There’s even a “who are you wearing” element to the event, with Pulitzer Prize winning fashion writer-turned Obama family reporter Robin Givhan handing out fashion advice for the evening.

The event cries out for a full-length gown; anything less would seem too informal. A bit of cleavage is fine but a dress that requires double-stick tape should be saved for the Grammys.

In addition to the usual political crowd and Indian officials, early press reports say the dinner’s guest list includes actor-turned-political aide Kal Penn, CNN’s Sanjay Gupta (who almost became Surgeon General), and Washington Post’s national editor Rajiv Chandrasekaram and his wife Julie Schlosser of Fortune, and WaPo managing editor Raju Narisetti (Note: if you want to score an invite, have roots in the country whose leader is being dined).

The guestlist also includes Hollywood moguls David Geffen, Steven Spielberg, and Jeffrey Katzenberg as well as super-agent (and brother of the chief-of-staff) Ari Emanuel. Representing the networks as guests at the dinner will be CBS’ Katie Couric, NBC’s Brian Williams and ABC’s Robin Roberts.

Reporters are also tweeting away about the event, with ABC’s Jake Tapper encouraging Sen. Claire McCaskill to tweet the event because it would “be ground-breaking and a quite polite shout-out to the twitterverse.” CBS’s Mark Knoller, on the other hand, tweeted “I don’t mind not being invited to tonight’s State Dinner – since it’s meat loaf night at my house.”

Here is CNN’s report:

One Year Later: Sarah Palin And Slaughtered Turkeys

palin_turkeyLook how far Sarah Palin’s come. It was only one year ago that the former Vice Presidential candidate — and then Alaskan Governor — was giving her first post-election interview. Afterwards, nobody was talking about the refreshingly frank and candid commentary. Instead the focus was the images of turkeys getting slaughtered just a few feet away from where Palin was speaking. Cut to one year later, Sarah Palin is a best-selling author, potential 2012 presidential candidate and on top of her media game.

Remember, the accepted media narrative at that time was that Palin didn’t possess the intellectual heft to be a serious candidate for high office. Not surprisingly, the left had a field day with this, perhaps best evidenced by the way it was reported by David Edwards and Stephen C. Webster at Raw Story at the time:

Now Alaska Governor and failed Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin has mimed presidential tradition, but her effort at winged mercy was ‘cut’ short. As she staged an impromptu press conference after pardoning one lucky bird, a worker at the Triple D Farm and Hatchery in Wasilla sliced a turkey’s neck, bled it out and twisted its head off behind the governor, directly in the camera’s line of fire.

A reporter asked Palin if she was okay with the backdrop. The Alaskan Governor answered, “no worries.” As the bird’s head was removed, the man looked over his shoulder at the governor and reporters and flashed a toothy grin.

“I was happy to be invited to participate in, in this, and, uh, and, you know, for one, you need a little bit of levity in this job, especially with a, uh, so much that has gone on in the last couple of months that has been so, um, political, ah, obviously, that it’s nice to get out and, and do something to promote a local business and, and to uh, just participate in something that isn’t so, um, heavy-handed politics that, uh, invites criticism,” said the governor in what appeared to be a single sentence.

After this video went viral, Countdown host Keith Olbermann chose a unique method to report the story. Here he is, watching it live for the first time, so his viewers could track his reaction in real time:

Mediaite Office Hours: Featuring James Poniewozik, Mediaite Book Club and More

mediaitelogoWe’re got a lot to talk about today on a special edition of Mediaite Office Hours, coming to you live from Livestream.com’s studio at 3pmET. James Poniewozik of Time magazine and more.

Do you have a question, comment or complaint about anything concerning Mediaite? Well if you do, today is a real chance to make your voice heard. We will be holding our Mediaite Office Hours at 3pmET.

Poniewozik is the author of the Tuned In blog on Time.com and the TV critic for Time Magazine. Follow him on Twitter here. And our Mediaite Book Club is back!

Glynnis MacNicol, Steve Krakauer and Rachel Sklar host the live-streamed call-in show, and others in the Mediaite team, like, Colby Hall and our fantastic interns, will appear periodically, as well as special guests.

Our call-in number is (347) 632-8956. Also, we’re using Skype now, so you can video chat in to our username – Mediaite. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Watch us live here on this page at 3pmET, or check it out at www.livestream.com/mediaite.

As for the schedule, we’ll talk to XX first and Poniewozik later.

See you at 3pm!

Adam Lambert Backlash Begins: GMA Cancels Concert After Complaints (Update)

lambert_11-24bAfter Adam Lambert’s thrust-tastic, overtly sexual performance at Sunday night’s American Music Awards resulted in more than a thousand complaints, the first signs of a backlash are being seen.

TVNewser reports Lambert’s planned performance on ABC’s Good Morning America has been canceled.

An ABC News spokesperson told TVNewser, “Given his controversial live performance on the AMAs we were concerned about airing a similar concert so early in the morning.”

But don’t expect Lambert to be held off ABC’s airwaves for long – GossipCop reports Lambert will be named one of Barbara Walters‘ “Most Fascinating People of 2009,” and will be part of her special on December 9. Still, there won’t be a performance.

The media push for Lambert’s new CD seems to be a combination of good and bad publicity for the pop star and his management team at RCA records, from the AMA closing performance to magazine covers. The buzz is certainly huge, but being canceled on a morning show watched by millions is a step backward. One question that has to be raised is whether the fact that Lambert is gay and the performance contained Lambert kissing (and more) male back-up dancers led to the cancellation? Would Lady Gaga’s sexual performance have led to the same result? When Access Hollywood caught up with Lambert after his AMA performance, he said he “wished people could open their minds up and enjoy things.”

In the same interview, he talked about what was coming up, teasing an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman for Monday night. That performance seems to have been pushed to tomorrow night, but will be taking place. Of the performance coming up on CBS, Lambert says, “the thing is, the song I’m performing on Letterman is a totally different energy.”

Here’s the Access interview:

> Update: CBS’ The Early Show booked Lambert for a performance and interview tomorrow morning instead.

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Olbermann Condemns “Teabaggers” To Hell Over Ugly Healthcare Fracas

Screen shot 2009-11-24 at 9.10.50 AM

Sometimes, Worst Person status isn’t enough. In last night’s Countdown, Keith Olbermann not only named Chicago Tea Patriots organizer Catherina Wojtowicz his Worst Person, but condemned her and her followers to hell for mocking a pro-health reform husband and wife who had lost their daughter-in-law and unborn grandchild to untreated double pneumonia.

When Dan and Midge Hough spoke in favor of health reform at a town hall meeting in Illinois earlier this month using their deep personal loss as a reference point, they were jeered by Chicago Tea Patriots in attendance. Wojtowicz later accused the couple of being Obama “operatives.”

A reporter for the Southtown Star verified that the Houghs’ story was true, and called the incident “a low mark in a very dark week:”

Catherina Wojtowicz, of Chicago’s Mount Greenwood community, an organizer for a Tea Party splinter group, Chicago Tea Party Patriots, falsely claimed that the Houghs fabricated their story. In an e-mail, she called them operatives of President Barack Obama who “go from event to event and (cry) the same story.”

When the Houghs spoke at the Lipinski event, some Tea Partiers ridiculed them. They moaned and rolled their eyes and interrupted. Midge Hough began to cry.

The audience, Wojtowicz later explained, was exasperated by stories of isolated tragedies that cloud debate over the health care bill itself.

“What we are talking about is the bill,” she said. “We’ve all had family members pass away, but would this health care bill really have prevented (Jenny’s) death? We do question it.”

It certainly was a low mark in a very dark week. What could be more illustrative of our state’s political marshland than openly mocking a grieving family?

Olbermann didn’t go for the same level of nuance: on his MSNBC.com page, referred to the Chicago Tea Patriots in question as “heartless teabaggers.” Still, he had an eloquent moment at the end of the segment:

After a local newspaper reporter verified the Houghs’ account, Ms. Wojtowicz defended herself by saying the protesters were frustrated by all these ‘isolated tragedies’ that get in the way of the discussion of the bill.

Ma’am, that’s what healthcare is: it’s a series of isolated tragedies. Isolated until they happen to you…

Moment of introspection accomplished, it was back to hyperbolic body blows: Olbermann went (non-denominationally) Biblical on Wojtowicz and the other Chicago Tea Partiers. “If any of the world’s major religions are right, ma’am, you, and for what you and the other people did to the Houghs, you’re going to hell.”

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Here’s the video of the original town hall meeting (h/t Raw Story):

Obama’s Low Approval Numbers Due To Drop In White Voter Support

who-is-barack-obamaMuch has been made in the past week about the fact President Obama’s approval rating has dipped below 50% for the first time, but here’s another take on those numbers courtesy of Richard Prince at the Maynard Institute. Turns out, what you’re not hearing a ton about in the media is that when the Gallup numbers are parsed Obama’s ratings have only really fallen significantly with white people.

For Nov. 16-22, Obama’s white approval rating fell to 39 percent, but it was 73 percent among nonwhites. It was 91 percent among blacks and 70 percent among Hispanics. The sample for Asian Americans and Native Americans was too small to measure.

Any number of things can be read into these results, and it perhaps should be noted that black and Hispanic voters, at 33%, make up less of the voting population (though, Hispanics are very much on the rise, as followers of last year’s election surely know). Moreover, black and Hispanic support is also down in the last month to the tune of 3% compared to 5% for whites. However, it does signify a interesting and seemingly widening racial divide in support for the President. It also brings to mind this much-chattered about post by the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder, who wrote about the results of a study examining how voters view a candidate’s skin tone.

A new study suggests that self-described partisanship influences how a candidate with biracial skin tone is evaluated. The biracial candidate in question, of course, is Barack Obama. In a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that self-described liberals looked at artificially lightened photographs of President Barack Obama and judged them as more representative of his actual likeness, while self-described conservative students more often chose artificially darkened photos of Obama…The basic conclusion: the more you like a candidate, the more likely you are to “lighten” a photograph of him or her. The less likely you like a candidate, the more likely you are to “darken a photograph.”

Soundbite: Tina Brown Gives Sarah Palin And Barack Obama Back-handed Compliments


“I think that what people are responding to is that great sort of vitality, confidence. It doesn’t matter that the confidence is based on a kind of total ignorance. It’s a vitality about her that people like, an unequivocal, in the present, raw, visceral quality that she has. And the reason people are responding quite so profoundly is we do have a president that does start to feel rarefied, unpassionate, with no bottom line. And I think the juxtaposition of those two things is making the excitement about Palin perhaps even greater.”

Tina Brown, founder of The Daily Beast, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning discussing Sarah Palin.

As Brown juxtaposed Palin with Obama, she seemed to compliment each while simultaneously exposing what she feels are their political weaknesses. Co-host Joe Scarborough asked Brown to explain her “total ignorance,” comment, and later Mika Brzezinski revisited some of what she had to say. “With all due respect, don’t you think there’s a possibility the media is misreading her message, and how she translates with people?” asked Brzezinski.

Brown seemed to defend the legitimacy of Palin. “I think they underestimate how profound the connection is,” she said. “I mean, I don’t think it’s just a celebrity connection. I think the profound connection is about the great discontent Americans rightly feel with how they’ve been stiffed.”

Here’s the clip, including a discussion of Lou Dobbs and his presidential aspiration (Obama vs. Palin vs. Dobbs 2012?):

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