Heckling the President?

440px-Official_portrait_of_Barack_ObamaAs many of you may have seen yesterday afternoon, President Obama was involved in a confrontation with a reporter during one of his speeches announcing an executive order to stop deporting young illegal immigrants. At one point, a reporter, Neil Munro interrupts the President, attempting to ask how this policy will affect American workers. Obama responds, visibly upset. Munro later claims that he believed the President had finished with his speech.

If you haven’t seen the video yet, watch it first. Then listen to my analysis of both the original event and the media’s reaction…

In all honesty, I think Munro is completely justified in his first “interruption.” If you look at the video, Obama finishes with the words “patriotic young people” in a conclusive tone. At the same time, he folds over the paper with his notes and looks up. It is at this point that Munro starts shouting his question.

Where I think Munro goes too far is in the corresponding exchange. The first interruption can truly be a mistake. Journalists always shout questions at the president, and this is one case in which Munro began the question (assuming Obama was done), but Obama apparently wanted to say “It is the right thing to do” before taking questions. However, after the first exchange, Munro should not have argued back-and-forth with the President. That’s an issue of respect. The back-and-forth is really not appropriate unless Obama has accepted questions in the first place.

The bottom line? Munro dug himself into a deeper hole. It went from an honest mistake to deliberate disrespect.

That being said, it is equally “outrageous” to assume that his actions somehow represent the entire “right wing”, or, even worse, a racist motive. That’s right, you read that correctly. A correspondent on MSNBC, Julian Epstein, actually said, “This is just so unprecedented and so outrageous, that you have to ask the question, would the right wing be doing this if we had a white President there?”

In my opinion, this MSNBC statement is completely and totally ridiculous in three major ways.
1) Heckling the President is not “unprecedented”.
Obama has been heckled MANY times, here, here, here, here, and here. Past presidents have been heckled over and over in the past. That is not to say it’s less important – it is still disrespectful every time. But claiming it is “unprecedented” is a little much. Perhaps MSNBC meant to say that it’s “unprecedented” in a formal setting to disrespect the President. I would argue that the State of the Union is much more formal than a press conference about an Executive Order, and yet President Bush was booed by the Democrats during the 2005 SOTU.

2) “The right wing” is not doing this.
To assume that one person’s actions somehow signify the thoughts or actions of an entire party is absurd. The correspondents on MSNBC go on to discuss how conservatives always treat others badly unless they’re conservative. To take this incident and use it as some condemning indictment against the 120 million or so Americans who consider themselves conservative is just a little stretch.

3) This has absolutely nothing to do with race. 
This should be common sense, but there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that race would be any sort of influence here. Reagan, Clinton, and both Bushes all have very notable heckling incidents, so I don’t get how Epstein can say, “We’ve never had a white president been told by the opposing party to shut up in the middle of a major address to the Congress. We’ve never had a president like this heckled so disrespectfully.”

In the end, was Munro wrong? Yes. Not at first, but the continued arguing was disrespectful. Because Obama had concluded a sentence and folded up his notes, I think it was an honest mistake that they both started talking at the same time. I think he crossed the line when he went back and forth with the President.

However, we should also consider again some of the criticisms of this statement. We can still hold someone accountable for their actions without judging an entire political group or calling them racists.

11 responses to “Heckling the President?

  1. Okay as long as we’re clear that it’s not just my standard. In fact, AP Style for all Associated Press supported papers mandates the President be addressed in written form: President First Name Last Name. Yes, a few years ago during the last election they changed it from being officially President Last Name to including the first name. These are just suggestions and tips that would take your writing to the next level and make it even MORE respectable.

    • Here’s the ACTUAL rule – introduction should be President Obama (or technically now, President Barack Obama, so my bad on that one). But (and I quote from the AP memo with my capitalization added for emphasis) “Effective Thursday at 3 a.m. EST, the AP will use the title and first and family names on FIRST reference”

      First reference only. That means subsequent references are not required to be President Barack Obama. Nor President Obama. Look at an actual AP article if you don’t believe me: http://www.ap.org/Content/AP-In-The-News/2012/Obama-says-election-choice-unambiguously-clear

      This is not the point of this post however. I appreciate your thoughts, and have a nice day.

      • …Since this is an Executive Order, and not a law, we are not bound by it. As Sheriff Joe, in Arizona alluded, this is just a piece of paper with a signature. It is not a law created by the legislative branch, passed by the legislative branch, and then signed as a law by the President. It is just rule by fiat. By dictatorship. President Obama has a history of simply choosing which laws he would like to enforce and/or follow, and which he would like to ignore. See the following example:

        The reversal on immigration is just the latest example. The United States constitution was specifically created to limit government and to create a system in which rule was NOT by dictatorship. The writers of the Constitution were tired of the king issuing edicts without their consent. Executive orders are similar in nature. If Congress will not act, then…well…Congress did not act. It is a natural and wise limitation on governmental power and potential overreach. One this President ignores time and time again. For a guy that claims to be a Constitutional Law expert, he seems to understand very little of it.

  2. It’s President Obama. You should respect the office and in the future your writings should use his proper title, please. It’s not Obama. It’s not Barack. It’s not even Barack Obama. Have some respect and please address him properly. I don’t care what your political standings are, and I very much respect you as a writer and person, but everyone should respect the office of the president.

    • I did start off with “President Obama”, and then shortened to Obama, interchangeably with “the president” to eliminate redundancy. Just as I didn’t feel the need to write “Former President Reagan, Former President Clinton, and Former President Bush.”

      I do respect the office (as you should see from my conclusion in this article), but if saying “Obama” during an article somehow indicates disrespect, than every single news outlet (yes, even MSNBC and the Daily Kos) is completely guilty. Even his campaign website is hosting a promotion : “Dinner with Barack”.

      I’m simply adhering to the universal standard. Thanks for your comment!

      • Rise above that “standard” then. MSNBC and Daily Kos are not “news.” I understand your point of starting out that way and such. But former presidents still keep their titles. I’m just saying, in the future you should address them that way. Either Former President Bush or President Bush, either works. It’s not that much harder to attach the word President before Obama for the other seven or eight times you say it. It won’t sound redundant just like saying Obama over and over doesn’t sound redundant.
        Also, even if all the media outlets and every person in the country called him Barack, it doesn’t mean it’s right or respectful.

        • I wasn’t citing them to prove that they’re news, only to show that even the most liberal pro-Obama news outlets act the same way.

          If I believed it to be truly disrespectful, I would change it immediately. I think it’s apparent from the conclusion of my article that I do respect the office of President and want to hold accountable those who don’t, and I believe “name-changing” in order to be politically correct by your standard is unnecessary. But I will take your comments into account for future posts.

          Thanks for your thoughts – I appreciate you stopping by!

  3. …Just some observations that are not evident from the video: President Obama was disingenuous in saying that he would take questions at the end. If you look at many past speeches, he says at the beginning that he will take questions at the end…then at the end, he simply turns and leaves, with reporters yelling questions to him. So, what looks like a request for polite respect in the video, is actually a refusal to tell the truth (answer questions at the end) and a refusal to be accountable (answer questions honestly.) His response to the reporter’s question that “It is in the best interest of the American people” is not an answer…it is just a rationale, that can be applied to literally anything he wants. It addresses nothing about the policy, the potential consequences, the usurp of power by executive order regarding immigration…none of it. He could say his eating lunch is in the best interest of the American people, so that he is nourished enough to do the job. It is a non-answer. The real problem is that the President has not been held accountable by the Press, since Day One. It is a collusion between the Left and the Press. And if the President will not be genuine in the above, one of the few courses left to any member of the Press is to interrupt…because otherwise there is no opportunity for any answer. The one thing the reporter from the Daily Caller did was express frustration with his body language…and that comes off poorly. But ultimately, it is this President that is the impolite person, as he misleads often.

    • In all honesty, he is under no obligation to take questions. I agree that he hasn’t been held accountable for that by the media (I imagine most people have no idea that he doesn’t take questions after most speeches, and if they did, it would adversely affect their opinion of him). But that does not justify interruption.

      I think his response to the reporter was completely pitiful compared to Bush’s response when faced with a similar problem. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnJmKWaQ-WY

      But the quality of response doesn’t matter when determining whether the reporter was out-of-line or not. The difference between Bush and here is that Bush had already entered into a dialogue with the reporter. In this case, I don’t think Munro made the right decision. Regardless if his question was a good point or not, he should have waited. Instead, his actions served to take all of the focus away from the actual issue at hand.

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