Kurtz: Cut Obama “A Little Slack”

Earlier today, Howard Kurtz held his weekly chat where he fielded questions on topics such as the role of the White House press secretary; possible hosts for Meet the Press; and President-Elect Obama’s church-going habits. Some excerpts:

Washington, D.C.: What should the press and the public expect from a White House press secretary, and did Dana Perino come close to meeting those expectations? It seems to me from your column today that you see her primary job as protecting the president — not leveling with the public about what’s going on in the White House.

Howard Kurtz: I don’t think that’s a fair characterization. Most reporters I’ve talked to say Perino has been professional and helpful. Every press secretary has a dual responsibility — to protect and defend the boss, and to provide accurate information to the public. Dee Dee Myers, Mike McCurry and Joe Lockhart did that as aggressively as Ari Fleischer, Scott McClellan, Tony Snow and Perino. Although I guess Scott later had second thoughts.

Avon Park, Fla.: Do you think that Gwen Ifill or Andrea Mitchell would be great candidates to host Meet the Press? I think that it would be appropriate if a non-white male got that job.

Howard Kurtz: I think either one would do a fine job. Andrea already works at NBC, obviously, while Gwen is an alumnus now at PBS. But I think network executives are going to weigh lots of factors in making this choice because “Meet the Press” is such a lucrative franchise for NBC.

So many questions: Any comment on the fact that Obama has been skipping church Sunday and playing basketball instead? Isn’t this the exact opposite kind of message he should be sending? I feel the same about his smoking — he should quit as an example to young people. After all the man has a mighty bully pulpit and there are some image things more important than his own desires. Do you agree ?

Howard Kurtz: It’s been three weeks since he was elected. I’m willing to cut the guy a little slack.