Obama, Senate Dems prove original always better than sequel

Latest "question time" event a disappointing follow-up to president's chat with House GOP

Topics: Barack Obama, War Room, Arlen Specter, D-Pa., Blanche L. Lincoln, D-Ark., Evan Bayh, D-Ind., Harry Reid, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.,

President Obama’s confrontation with House Republicans last week was, as Mike Madden wrote here, some truly great television. Wednesday’s sequel — “Obama’s Question Time 2: The Questioning,” starring the Senate Democrats — fell flat, and not even just by comparison.

The biggest difference between the two events, obviously, was the lack of a partisan divide this time around. Because of that, the president’s chat with the Senate Democrats turned into, essentially, a dog-and-pony show. It seemed mostly like a chance for the caucus to get vulnerable members some valuable camera time.

Nearly all of those who questioned Obama, in fact, are up for re-election this year, and facing tough fights. The only exceptions were Vermont Sen. Pat Leahy and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown  — and you can make a case that Brown, too, was a choice made with a nod to electoral politics, as a Republican-held seat in his state is coming open, and the race will be competitive. The rest of the questions went to Sens. Evan Bayh, Kirsten Gillibrand, Blanche Lincoln and Arlen Specter, and of course Majority Leader Harry Reid, who’s in a tough spot of his own, got his time in the spotlight, too. 

Because of that dynamic, there wasn’t much in the way of fireworks, or even news, out of this session. Obama did chide the caucus a bit, telling them to “finish the job” on healthcare reform and saying, “All that’s changed in the last two weeks is that our party’s gone from having the largest Senate majority in a generation to the second largest Senate majority in a generation. And we’ve got to remember that.” Notably, there were no questions on the topic of healthcare reform, though Obama did bring it up unbidden on a couple occasions.

Update: Video of the event is below.

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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