Lost in the huge media fracas about how President Obama called Kanye West a "jackass" and whether ABC should have reported it and whether ABC's groveling apology would restore its access to precious White House scoops is the observation that Obama played this brilliantly.
- Obama is way too smart not to know that calling Kanye West a jackass on a live feed monitored by several rabidly competitive reporters would not get reported by someone.
Obama is also smart enough to know that:
- Kanye West was a jackass when he grabbed the microphone away from Taylor Swift, so few people would disagree with this characterization
- The word "jackass" is colorful and startling, but harmless--and therefore very well chosen. Obama just looks like a regular guy telling it like it is.
- The Glenn Beck fans who believe that Obama is a racist whose policies and actions are driven by a "deep-seated hatred" of half the country because of their skin color will have a hard time fitting this remark into their theory--given the respective skin colors of Kanye West and Taylor Swift.
- Such a remark could never be made on the record in a normal setting, because it would be inappropriate for the President of The United States to share an opinion on such matters.
- The "off the record" convention around these White House interviews would focus much of the ensuing media tumult on whether Obama had been wronged by the media--as opposed to whether he should have said what he said.
- The news organization whose reporter reported the remark would be so terrified of being given less Obama access that it would issue a groveling apology, furthering the impression that Obama had been wronged (which ABC already has).
This isn't to suggest that the remark was planned in advance. Only that Obama's instincts were pitch-perfect here.
Well done, Mr. President!