President-Elect Barack Obama: From "60 Minutes" to YouTube
Hang on folks 'cause we're about to have a "YouTube President" in the White House. Yes, it's true he may now have to give up his BlackBerry, but that doesn't mean his administration won't use the media and the internet in ways that have only been imagined in politics before.
Last night President-elect Barack Obama did his first televised interview since the election with Steve Kroft of "60 Minutes." And though interviews by new presidents on "60 Minutes" are not new, the way Mr. Obama has used the media to his advantage rivals that of The Great Communicator himself, the late President Ronald Reagan.
The show devoted the full hour to the President-elect and his wife and covered such weighty issues as Obama's vow to close Guantanamo Bay and sign an executive order to prevent the torturing of prisoners, to lighter matters like when the new presidential puppy will arrive. The first part of the hour was with Obama alone and he was joined by wife Michelle for the second part.
Obama showed his usual measured, self-assurance when talking about the economy and the war in Iraq, but he also displayed a flash of humor as he kidded Steve Kroft, in response to a question about Michelle Obama's mother moving into the White House, about Kroft's own relationship with his mother-in-law.
A full transcript of the interview is available on the CBS website.
Leendaluu at Wit's End watched the interview with her family and described in a lovely post how she found herself unexpectedly moved:
My girls don't understand what a moment this is to see a black family in the White House. Happily, they have grown up in a multicultural (and yes, privileged) environment where ethnicity and color aren't factors. They are part of a rainbow. Their mother, however, remembers the strife of the sixties and, although I was quite young, it left an imprint. But these past few weeks have restored my faith and my hope. And as this epiphany came to me, I started crying. I cried for those who struggled to make this moment possible, I cried at the marvel of it all, I cried because for the first time in eight years, I think this I is MY country and I will give my life up to it and I am proud to say: I am American.
Shequeta at The Black Hollywood Files was pleased with the interview as well:
I really love these two and can't wait until inauguration day. This is indeed a new dawn of American leadership and Barack proves it every time he opens his mouth and spits a complete sentence---unlike the current lame duck President who could use a lesson in hooked on phonics.
Joyce Ladner of The Ladner Report can't wait for Washington D.C. to welcome Michelle Obama's mother, Marian Robinson to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue along with the new first family. She also gave kudos to Steve Kroft:
Like the late Ed Bradley, Kroft has a way of getting the story out without making himself too large a part of the story. Speaking of Ed Bradley, I really miss him now more than ever. He would be front and center in the Obama meteoric rise to the presidency.
It seems much of America was interested in getting a glimpse of the new president-elect. According to TV Week the Obama interview drew the program's largest audience since January 1999."
Television won't be the only way the new president maintains contact with the American public. Al Gore may have "invented the internet" but President-elect Obama shows every sign that his White House will use it in more ways than any other US president.
Just last week Obama's transition team announced he'll do a weekly radio address that for the first time will also be videotaped and posted on his transition website, Change.gov and on YouTube. His first address last Saturday focused on the economy.
While the Obama campaign is the first to utilize the Internet in such an expert way, it also needs to be pointed out that he is the first president going into office at a time when the Internet and Web are considered mainstream, and the tools for social media are freely available.
Obama's Web omnipresence clearly relies on many tools, and certainly he should continue using them, but equating Web tools with transparency may not be such a great idea this early in the game, particularly with so many scrutinizing his every word.
"The Obama team has written the playbook on how to use YouTube for political campaigns. Not only have they achieved impressive mass -- uploading over 1800 videos that have been viewed over 110 million times total -- but they've also used video to cultivate a sense of community amongst supporters," said Steve Grove, head of news and politics at YouTube.
It's obvious President-elect Obama understands that television and the internet are crucial to his maintaining contact with the American people. Those tools may also operate as mechanisms to mobilize voters and ultimately get his agenda through congress.
Megan Smith is the BlogHer Contributing Editor covering Television and Online Video and she's eagerly anticipating the new Obama presidency. Her other blogs are Megan's Minute, quirky commentary around the clock, and Video Runway.