Wow. Our experiment is off to a great start—let's see if we can finish it off sooner than expected.
At the Wednesday White House press briefing, I asked deputy press secretary Bill Burton about the cross-partisan Demand Question Time campaign that has come together to urge President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders to commit to holding regular, frequent, and public Q&A sessions like the one held last Friday in Baltimore. Here's what happened:
Q. Thanks. As you might know, there's a coalition of right and left bloggers, politicos, including --
MR. BURTON: Cable pundits? (Laughter.)
Q. -- people who watch cable TV and people who don't, including people who used to work in the administration and people who worked on the Obama campaign, who are asking both the President and the congressional Republican leaders in the House and Senate to hold these question sessions, to commit to holding them on a regular basis. Would the White House do that?
MR. BURTON: Well, David Axelrod has talked about this a little, and what he had to say was that part of the reason that Friday was so successful with the GOP conference is that it was for the spontaneity that occurred there. And it's going to be hard to sort of recreate that spontaneity that happened.
Now, the President thinks that there is space for more open dialogue, more -- and he's going to look for more opportunities to do things on camera and have open discussions on important issues. But in terms of a regularly scheduled event, I don't have anything for you on that.
Now compare that to the Republican response. Politico reports:
House Republicans want a rematch.
Democrats were thrilled with President Barack Obama's performance at last week's question-and-answer session with the House GOP, but it's the Republicans — not the White House — who are embracing a call to make question time a regular part of American political life.
“I think it’d be great,” said Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), the ranking Republican on the budget committee whose exchange with the president over his budget proposal was one of the more substantive parts of Friday's Q&A in Baltimore.
As for the GOP House leaders, Politico notes:
“We had a good discussion with the president in Baltimore about his policies and what we believe are our better solutions,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Minority Leader John Boehner. “Frankly, the president’s acknowledgment that he has read our policy proposals should stop every Democrat — in Congress, at the political committees, and in the White House — from repeating their discredited ‘party of no ideas’ talking point. So we’ll look at this proposal."
To sum up: White House says, no. GOPers say, maybe. To be continued.
You can sign a petition calling for Question Time here. You can watch me talking about QT on C-SPAN below.
And here's Republican strategist/blogger Mindy Finn and I discussing Question Time on Hardball.