Thursday, October 28, 2010

Knowing When to Sit Down

Accomplished trial lawyers will tell you that the key to effective cross-examination is knowing when to sit down. That’s true whether the cross-examiner is winning or losing the cross. Even a great cross’ impact on the jury diminishes severely every second that the cross-examiner drones on past the point of its maximum impact. And the longer a witness holds his own during an aggressive cross, the more credibility he gains in the eyes of jurors. Sitting down is an especially hard thing for trial lawyers to do because loving the sound of their own voice is a hazard of their occupation. The best lawyers, however, have the self-discipline to do it.

I was reminded of all this when I saw the president on the Jon Stewart’s Comedy Central show. I know that a lot of the younger voters Obama needs to re-energize watch The Daily Show. But that doesn’t make it any less strange seeing the leader of the free world straining to ingratiate himself to a cable TV comedian by saying things he has said innumerable times before. You can just imagine the fun Stewart would be having at Obama’s expense if he’d appeared on, say, the Bill Maher show.

Being the leader of their party, presidents are supposed to make campaign stops in closely contested districts during the last week of the campaign. Telling the national electorate things they’ve heard before in increasingly unpresidential settings is another thing entirely. If presidential politicking is anything like making a case to a jury, Obama should have sat down a long time ago.

5 comments:

Mean Voter said...

Couldn't agree more. Did Obama think he was going to score points? Jon Stewart called him "dude." That tells you everything you need to know about what a bad idea this was.

Anonymous said...

Say what you want about Obama appearing with Stewart. He was at least trying to defend his record rather than just running down Republicans.

KenB said...

Personally I react this way as well, but I wonder if I'm the exception rather than the rule. Bill Clinton didn't seem to suffer too much after going on MTV's Rock the Vote and answering the "boxers or briefs" question.

Lone Wolf said...

But Clinton wasn't already a president presiding over economic hard times that have people thinking he might not be up to the job. If ever there was a time to look presidential it's now.

Mean Voter said...

In response to KenB, I don't recall how things stood when Bill Clinton went on MTV's Rock the Vote. But Obama's posse should have known what was going to come his way from Jon Stewart. It wasn't going to be a cakewalk. Jon Stewart has been ragging on Obama for awhile now. And, to Anon at 4:07's point, it seems that Obama shouldn't be trying to defend his record on this sort of program. I mean, the audience burst into laughter at the whole exchange about "Yes We Can" has now turned into "Yes We Can, But..." Is Obama going to be inteviewed by Borat next? This was not a good idea and he should have known it wasn't in advance. Bill Clinton was way more astute about how he would look and may have made fun of himself, but in an endearing way, not in a way that made him look clueless.