Can you blame the newly installed Team Obama for wanting to channel some of the slick dramedy of the classic West Wing TV series? After all, don't you think most of them came of political age as the NBC political series was at its zenith. You have to imagine that as a deputy press secretary and senior advisors are doing their walk-and-talks down the White House halls more than once they flashed to just that right scene when Toby and C.J. or Josh and Sam were doing the same thing. Check the video shelves of any Obama staffer and I would wager the full DVD collection is there somewhere.
And so it is not surprising that the most media savvy administration in history has embraced video blogging, and that it comes under a suspiciously familiar name. "West Wing Week" is a recently launched weekly summary of the President's week. Each episode even comes titled. The May 14 installment is tagged "Hang Onto Your Hats," which we guess described the busyness of the week. The series is most accessible on The White House's YouTube page.
Each weekly installment gives a day-by-day digest of what POTUS was up to, with a combination of formal footage from addresses and backstage moments of offhanded quips. As they await the formal press briefing to announce Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court, Obama tells Kagan that the most important thing to remember is not to trip on the way to the podium. He and Secretary of State Clinton chortle (well, Hillary cackles) at an old photo of Press Secretary Robert Gibb. The President greets Senator Chuck Hagel in the White house by calling him "brother." He even snaps at the videographer at one point, asking why he is still filming. Well the answer is simple, Mr. President. You never know when you are going to give us some of that cool charm.
The MSM (main stream media) take on all of this is that it is another attempt by the Obama Administration to bypass the press corps and get its unfettered self-image out to the public. What a stunner. Politicians try to control the message. Gee, stop the presses. Alert the media. No, wait...
Like almost all political messaging, "West Wing Week" is most entertaining in its ham-handedness and amateurishness. The flat voiceover and rah-rah scripting somehow makes a weekly digest of the most important office in the world seem a bit like a high school newspaper report. Perhaps calculated amateurishness is part of the plan. The unmistakable sub-text in this series is that your Commander-in-Chief is as cool as his fan base wants to believe he is. Sure politicians need to play to their political base with red meat issues and us vs. them rhetoric, but someone at the White House is sharp enough to know that a lot of people voted for the guy because they thought he was calm, collected, stayed loose and was smart as hell. As an ongoing ad for the Obama persona, the series is a good try, even if it doesn't seem to be attracting a vast YouTube audience. You won't learn much from these video, except perhaps that being President means that everyone laughs a little too hard at your jokes.