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Was Jonathan Karl Out Of Bounds Asking President Obama About Mitt Romney?

March 30, 2014

I noted over the past several days angst from some Democrats concerning ABC reporter Jonathan Karl asking President Obama during a press conference at The Hague if Mitt Romney was correct during the 2012 presidential election to refer to Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical foe.  MSNBC”s The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell allowed a national audience to  get the impression the press was out to get President Obama, and Karl was one of those helping to make it happen.

Being a Democrat and a supporter of President Obama should not play into this matter. I am both, but think the question asked by Karl was proper and also important. I also think it to be professional.

There are only so many times during the trip overseas when the press actually gets to ask the President a question. Even then the number of questions are limited. Given the number one topic during the trip was Crimea, and more to the point American-Russian relations there needed to be a solid question asked that would bring to focus the larger themes that percolated over this matter.   When given the chance to ask a question there is little insight to be gained if a softball is delivered. What may seem ‘unfair’ or ‘political’ is actually the best way to force a leader to step beyond the talking points and discuss matters in a more complete and hopefully less-nuanced way.

The question was not aimed at showing Romney to be correct about Russia, but instead how the larger aims of our foreign policy is in such a place that Russia does have the stronger hand to play. Romney was merely the avenue to get to the heart of the question, while also taking into account what everyone was aware of—that being Mitt was making appearances on news shows.   Please note that no journalist at the level of Karl is unaware of the way this larger story is reported by others.  At that time The New York Times had a front-page above-the-fold review of the last 15 years with presidents of both parties having issues with Putin.  Karl was adding—in question form—to the larger narrative that was already being talked about.

I might also note that MSNBC (where the emailed article takes it quotes) can be as dreadful from the Democratic side as FOX News is from the Republican side. I think it harder to view the role of a journalist–which Karl is– when clouded with political-colored lenses.  Everything can not (or should not) be viewed with a political spin because then we get down to breaking down the very questions asked of our leaders.

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