Differing Views on Obama’s Visit to ‘The View’

By Gail Shister Comment


Is it beneath President Obama’s dignity to appear on “The View” tomorrow?

Yes, say Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Pennsylvania) and Republican Pat Buchanan. They both blasted Obama’s scheduled visit to ABC’s daytime female chatfest, but theirs appears to be the minority opinion. The program is to be taped today.

A sitting U.S. president should do “serious” shows, Rendell argued yesterday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “The View” can be serious, he said, but it also “rocks and rolls a little bit.” Buchanan agreed, saying there should be some “majesty” to the presidency.

“If Buchanan wants majesty, he’s revealing his royalist side,” riffs Charles Bierbauer, dean of the College of Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina and a former CNN correspondent.

“Wasn’t it Nixon who put the White House police in palace guard uniforms? Then again, wasn’t it Nixon who said ‘Sock it to me!’ on ‘Laugh-in?'” in 1968.

Tomorrow will mark the first time a sitting U.S. president has appeared on a daytime talk show, according to “View” producers. Accordingly, matriarch Barbara Walters will return to the set for the first time since her heart surgery in May.

Obama was previously on “The View” twice — in November 2004, as a U.S. Senator, and in March 2008 (photo above), as a prospective presidential candidate whom Walters pronounced “very sexy.”

Alex S. Jones, director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, sees no problem with the embattled president sitting in on “The View.”

“Does Obama want to get his message out? Of course he does. If you’re a politician, you go to where the people are going to listen. ‘The View’ is a great place for him to reach a large group of people, a lot of them women concerned about issues like the economy.”

Jones labels Rendell’s remarks as “ridiculous. I admire Ed Rendell, but he’s wrong.”

While some see “The View” as nothing more than a coffee klatch, the show does take on serious topics. “It’s not [PBS’] ‘Newshour,’ but neither is ‘Morning Joe,'” says Jones.

“Respect” is the key operating term for any presidential TV shot, observers concur. Respect for the office as well as the person.

“How you carry yourself and how you’re respected by the people around you is more important than the name of the show,” says Richard Prince, an online media critic who focuses on diversity issues in the news business. “I see nothing undignified in ‘The View.'”

Adds University of South Carolina’s Bierbauer: “Shows and their hosts rise or fall to the level of their guests. The president himself should convey dignity. But if he wants to reach the audience of ‘The View,’ he can’t shy from an honest exchange with feisty hosts.”

That feistiness is what makes “The View” a good forum for presidential give-and-take, says Willie Geist, a regular on “Morning Joe” and host of its 5:30 a.m. lead-in, “Way Too Early.”

“View” co-hosts “don’t have to cover Obama every day or manage a relationship with the White House,” Geist says. “They can just fire away. I say, go for it.” (FYI: “Morning Joe’s” Joe Scarborough has guest-hosted on “The View” several times.)

One issue is beyond debate: Obama is sure to spike “The View’s” ratings.

“You can rest assured that a ton of people will be watching Thursday, regardless of what Ed Rendell says,” Geist predicts.