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Heckling Obama

| June 15, 2012

It's not always that glowing. (White House)

In a Rose Garden speech earlier today President Obama announced the very sensible reversal of long-standing American policy. People who entered the United States illegally when they were under 16, who’ve lived in the country for more than five years and are under 30, will no longer be deported. Rather, they’ll be granted work permits and, presumably, a way to citizenship, formalizing what they already do: attend college, hold jobs, pay taxes, serve in the military, keep this country vibrant and true to its heritage. The policy directive mirrors the Dream Act, held hostage to congressional demagogues for years. Obama’s breakthrough doesn’t trump congressional prerogative. Human rights trump gridlock. Congress can sort out the details while human beings are no longer unjustly deported. If Obama is buying votes in an election year, there are cheaper, much less politically risky ways to do it.

pierre tristam flaglerlive editor's blogThe decision is worth debating—if there was room for that debate. It’s not just Congress that’s refused. Obama’s announcement was itself hijacked by a reporter who, five minutes through Obama’s 9-minute speech, heckled the president. That story, on the strength of a single reporter’s crass act, is now more fatly headlined than the immigration breakthrough.

The reporter is Neil Munro, who works for the Daily Caller, a legitimate, D.C.-based online news and commentary website created by Tucker Carlson, the columnist and former co-host of CNN’s Crossfire, where interruptions were part of the show’s gimmickry. That the Daily Caller is conservative is irrelevant. It has a reputation for being aggressive. Its readership is broad. Its legitimacy unquestioned. That’s not at issue in today’s incident.

Munro’s method, and Carlson’s justifications for what Munro did, are at issue and ought to be.

Click On:

The Rose Garden announcement was an Obama speech, not a press conference. He might have taken questions at the end. He might not. When presidents deliver speeches—or governors or county commissioners or aunt Hilda’s great-uncle at a bar mitzvah for that matter—interruptions are not acceptable. Heckling, an accurate description of what happened today, even less so. Not even if the president being interrupted is Richard Nixon (which he never was during a speech, even in his decomposing phase in the summer of 1974. When Dan Rather had his famous exchange with Nixon at a broadcaster’s conference that March, it was during the Q&A phase, and the exchange was prompted  by applause from the audience when Rather rose, and by a snide jab of Nixon’s own).

Munro was not a reporter at that moment. He was a heckler, even though his question—“Mr. President, why do you favor foreign workers over Americans?”—while clearly baiting and tendentious, was legitimate. As is ridiculing, lampooning, lambasting, bitching out or even calling the president a liar, but in the proper context. Shouting it out during a State of the Union address, as Joe Wilson, the degraded South Carolina congressman, did three years ago, is adding insult to grandstanding. The attack on the president is of much less consequence than the attack on the office, on the moment, on the process, of which Wilson is allegedly a part: the insult was as much on himself as it was on republican principles (note the small ‘r,’ please.)

So it was with Munro. He wasn’t asking a question. He was grandstanding, insultingly and purposely, and mostly for the attention it would trigger, effectively derailing the moment. He succeeded. Carlson’s defense added to the ploy. In fairness to Carlson, who was traveling on a plane when questioned about the incident, he hadn’t seen the speech. He was reacting to what he was being told. He came to his reporter’s defense. But he did it badly. He’s not a fool. He knows the difference between heckling and asking questions. He’s been to innumerable speeches and news conferences. He also knows the buttons to push to frame the debate his way, on the sympathies of uncritical audiences who’ll only hear the Woodward-and-Bernstein spin of Carlson’s explanation, not its Joe Wilson boorishness: “He was doing what reporters are supposed to do — get their questions answered,” Carlson told Politico. “Presidents come out and they expect the press to act as stenographers — dutifully take down their every word and they retreat back into the White House. It’s very frustrating that they sit there every day and act … as politicians’ stenographer.”

The press, the right-wing and left-wing press both, did exactly what Carlson was describing from 2001 to 2003 and beyond, when—in press conference after press conference, and with Carlson in the amen corner—President Bush’s giant follies in Afghanistan and Iraq were indulged by reporters who’d abdicated their responsibilities in the name of the White House’s version of vote-buying, which back then took the form of patriotic pandering.

So Carlson is right. But he’s also being deceptive. Carlson is not only conflating method and circumstance, and hoping the public doesn’t notice. He’s slurring journalism by equating means and ends, by erasing the difference between method and propriety. No one is asking his reporter not to ask the tough questions, to be a ball-buster if necessary. Politicians and their handlers are asses by nature: it takes being an ass to crack the slime and get at the slivers of truth they’re occasionally capable of. But that’s what one-on-one interviews are for, or even news conferences, however phony and controlled those tend to be. Munro isn’t for that sort of grub. So he goes for a rhetorical Molotov cocktail.

And Carlson fuels it up, with superb effect. An “illegal” immigrant would have behaved more honorably.

The speech:

The Text:

Friday, June 15, 2012, Rose Garden, 2:09 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. This morning, Secretary Napolitano announced new actions my administration will take to mend our nation’s immigration policy, to make it more fair, more efficient, and more just — specifically for certain young people sometimes called “Dreamers.”

These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they’re friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents — sometimes even as infants — and often have no idea that they’re undocumented until they apply for a job or a driver’s license, or a college scholarship.

Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine you’ve done everything right your entire life — studied hard, worked hard, maybe even graduated at the top of your class — only to suddenly face the threat of deportation to a country that you know nothing about, with a language that you may not even speak.

That’s what gave rise to the DREAM Act. It says that if your parents brought you here as a child, if you’ve been here for five years, and you’re willing to go to college or serve in our military, you can one day earn your citizenship. And I have said time and time and time again to Congress that, send me the DREAM Act, put it on my desk, and I will sign it right away.

Now, both parties wrote this legislation. And a year and a half ago, Democrats passed the DREAM Act in the House, but Republicans walked away from it. It got 55 votes in the Senate, but Republicans blocked it. The bill hasn’t really changed. The need hasn’t changed. It’s still the right thing to do. The only thing that has changed, apparently, was the politics.

As I said in my speech on the economy yesterday, it makes no sense to expel talented young people, who, for all intents and purposes, are Americans — they’ve been raised as Americans; understand themselves to be part of this country — to expel these young people who want to staff our labs, or start new businesses, or defend our country simply because of the actions of their parents — or because of the inaction of politicians.

In the absence of any immigration action from Congress to fix our broken immigration system, what we’ve tried to do is focus our immigration enforcement resources in the right places. So we prioritized border security, putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history — today, there are fewer illegal crossings than at any time in the past 40 years. We focused and used discretion about whom to prosecute, focusing on criminals who endanger our communities rather than students who are earning their education. And today, deportation of criminals is up 80 percent. We’ve improved on that discretion carefully and thoughtfully. Well, today, we’re improving it again.

Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security is taking steps to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people. Over the next few months, eligible individuals who do not present a risk to national security or public safety will be able to request temporary relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work authorization.

Now, let’s be clear — this is not amnesty, this is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It’s not a permanent fix. This is a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people. It is —

Q (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT: — the right thing to do.

Q — foreigners over American workers.

THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me, sir. It’s not time for questions, sir.

Q No, you have to take questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Not while I’m speaking.

Precisely because this is temporary, Congress needs to act. There is still time for Congress to pass the DREAM Act this year, because these kids deserve to plan their lives in more than two-year increments. And we still need to pass comprehensive immigration reform that addresses our 21st century economic and security needs — reform that gives our farmers and ranchers certainty about the workers that they’ll have. Reform that gives our science and technology sectors certainty that the young people who come here to earn their PhDs won’t be forced to leave and start new businesses in other countries. Reform that continues to improve our border security, and lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

Just six years ago, the unlikely trio of John McCain, Ted Kennedy and President Bush came together to champion this kind of reform. And I was proud to join 23 Republicans in voting for it. So there’s no reason that we can’t come together and get this done.

And as long as I’m President, I will not give up on this issue, not only because it’s the right thing to do for our economy — and CEOs agree with me — not just because it’s the right thing to do for our security, but because it’s the right thing to do, period. And I believe that, eventually, enough Republicans in Congress will come around to that view as well.

And I believe that it’s the right thing to do because I’ve been with groups of young people who work so hard and speak with so much heart about what’s best in America, even though I knew some of them must have lived under the fear of deportation. I know some have come forward, at great risks to themselves and their futures, in hopes it would spur the rest of us to live up to our own most cherished values. And I’ve seen the stories of Americans in schools and churches and communities across the country who stood up for them and rallied behind them, and pushed us to give them a better path and freedom from fear –because we are a better nation than one that expels innocent young kids.

And the answer to your question, sir — and the next time I’d prefer you let me finish my statements before you ask that question — is this is the right thing to do for the American people —

Q (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT: I didn’t ask for an argument. I’m answering your question.

Q I’d like to —

THE PRESIDENT: It is the right thing to do —

Q (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT: — for the American people. And here’s why —

Q — unemployment —

THE PRESIDENT: Here’s the reason: because these young people are going to make extraordinary contributions, and are already making contributions to our society.

I’ve got a young person who is serving in our military, protecting us and our freedom. The notion that in some ways we would treat them as expendable makes no sense. If there is a young person here who has grown up here and wants to contribute to this society, wants to maybe start a business that will create jobs for other folks who are looking for work, that’s the right thing to do. Giving certainty to our farmers and our ranchers; making sure that in addition to border security, we’re creating a comprehensive framework for legal immigration — these are all the right things to do.

We have always drawn strength from being a nation of immigrants, as well as a nation of laws, and that’s going to continue. And my hope is that Congress recognizes that and gets behind this effort.

All right. Thank you very much.

Q What about American workers who are unemployed while you import foreigners?

2:17 P.M. EDT

23 Responses for “Heckling Obama”

  1. Emile says:

    Reminds me of Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. who famously shouted “You Lie!” at the State of the Union address.

  2. Yellowstone says:

    I look for (unfortunately for all Americans) more of the same.

    Recall the run up to GWB’s election – there were armed guards filtering out people within and out of the audience. If you didn’t smell right you were quietly removed.

    These next few weeks will be full of ‘nasty’ and unruly outbursts designed to detract us Americans from focusing on the real issues; jobs!

    BTW: Have all of you got health insurance? Got a job? Getting unemployment?

    Make darn sure you take names and vote for those who ‘do the right thing for Americans’. If you don’t vote – maybe you don’t care – or perhaps you were mistakenly removed from the rolls.

  3. Dave Francis says:



    The Obama administration is passing laws by decree now, without any oversight and not being addressed by the House of Representatives. I thought this type of enacting policies as this, was for the dictatorships of the world? This is AMNESTY by any other name and will generate a firestorm amongst Independents voters as me, explicitly the TEA PARTY? I guess the Obama government sees themselves above the “rule of Law.” Obviously this is a political push for the children of foreign nationals and certainly performed on behalf of the majority ethnic population? Is this another bloated fraud policy, as seen in the 1986 Immigration Control and Reform Act.

    With the possibility of a work visa, they will be able to apply for taxpayer’s money for enrollment in colleges. THIS IS BILLIONS MORE DOLLARS TO THE STRAINED FINANCES FOR EDUCATION AND FURTHERANCE OF EVEN MORE PENDING MASSIVE CHAIN MIGRATION; AT LEAST THE PARENTS CAN BE DEPORTED FOR BREAKING IMMIGRATION LAWS? Democrats have always been generous with other people’s money, so it is very scary wondering what’s next in their agenda of their ‘Political Correctness’? Without any contradiction this is a means to gain millions of extra votes from persons already here, including non-citizens? This has clearly been shown by the Obama Dept of IN-Justice suing Florida, for ethically doing the correct thing of erasing non citizens from the election rolls. EVERY PRO-SOVEREIGNTY AMERICAN WHO HAS NEVER CARED TO VOTE SHOULD JOIN THE TEA PARTY OR VOTE AGAINST THE OBAMA REGIME. WITH ORGANIZATIONS AS GEORGE SOROS, MOVE ON ORG AND PRO-ULTRA LEFT, ANTI AMERICAN GROUPS, THE COMMUNIST FOUNDED ACLU AND OTHER SPECIAL INTEREST OUR U.S. CONSTITUTION IS IN PERIL, GRAVE THREAT AS WE HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE?

    If you want to read the truth about the lawlessness and carnage along the border, then bookmark the ‘AMERICAN PATROL’ website. Investigate other headlines today such as ‘Catch and release for low-priority illegal’s proposed — Border agency’s secret draft policy includes ‘prosecutorial discretion’, Obama implements DREAM amnesty by executive fiat!, The Fast and Furious scandal , Reporter heckles Obama during speech declaring sell-out of U.S. workers, Obama regime to help illegal’s, LA Mayor Villaraigosa delighted over Obama’s outrageous decree, Rep. Granger alarmed by Obama chicanery, Out-of-control Obama regime to bypass Congress on illegal’s today, Bombastic assemblyman wants to keep criminal illegal’s in the state, NYPD faces politicians, Muslim advocates seeking control of cops, Voters need to make their voices heard on illegal immigration, etc., AMERICAN PATROL is a current exposure site of the nationwide E-media and newspapers, blogs and commentary that the Liberal press prefers to keep from the public. Daily, the truth is revealed about illegal immigration and the corruption in Washington and state assemblies. This is intelligence not found in the press, which the parties keep suppressed. There is an eye opening video from TEA PARTY. ORG about the stunning claim that President Obama is ineligible for the position in the White House and every citizen should judge for their own peace of mind.

    The Obama is stealing millions of American’s livelihood, by trying to close down the coal, gas and oil industry. We have more oil in regions of America, then any other place on this planet and would pay off the $16 Trillion dollars; we owe nations that don’t like us. The Canadian pipeline would lighten the load of all consumers gas needs, but Obama has prohibited it and may now be sold to our enemy China. Both parties are to blame for this immigration mess, we find our country hopelessly swamped under? We must alter our future before it’s too late and end this Presidents reign of Socialist philosophy, to give away our wealth to other nations, as ‘THE TREATY OF THE SEA’. Do you know about this issue?

    • notasenior says:

      Where were you for the 8 years of the Bush presidency. Does the term “signing statements” ring any bells?

  4. another voice says:

    I need to understand–specifically–why some people think it’s perfectly OK for ANYONE to disrespect this President in ways that have never before been exhibited by anyone in this country, let alone “reporters” and “Congresspeople”?

    Even those of us who thought GW Bush wasn’t rightfully elected never did this kind of thing. It is disgusting. It is immoral. It is pathetic.

  5. palmcoaster says:

    I totally agree with “another voice”! The reason for showing that disrespect is called as simple and clear as bigotry.Otherwise read the post above!

    I applaud the President’s classy, cool and strict to the point address to the interrupter and for his passing of the Dream Act! After all we are all immigrants in a nation of immigrants, where the only real original sons of this land are our brave and proud native american nations. The rest of us are all imported no matter how long ago!

    • some guy says:

      The yelling out of a question in that setting WAS wrong rude and in just bad taste BUT had nothig to do with ‘bigotry” thats just a way for the left to shut up those who question 0bama.

  6. Biker says:

    News Flash “Another Voice”- There are alot of people that know Obama was not rightfully elected. Americans need jobs. Stop cow towing to special interests, and fix the economy or let the next administration do so,

    • anon says:

      Do you mean not rightfully elected similar ot the way George Bush was appointed President the first time around?

    • Dorothea says:

      As I write, you will be glad to know, the birthers are up in Tallahassee suing to get President Obama off the ballot in Florida. It’s difficult to fix the economy when the righties are busy worrying about nonsense like birtherism, while they obstruct Congress over every legitimate plan to get the economy fixed and waste Congressional time making laws about what a woman does with her vagina.

  7. rickg says:

    Incidents like this justify my comparison of Obama to Jackie Robinson. Both have had to cut back on their emotions and opinions for the sake of sanity and peace. There are many policies in which the President and I disagree but common decency should rule the day. Rs are so much like misbehaving children

  8. Songbird says:

    Dave, calling Obama a socialist is an insult to Socialists everywhere. If he were a Socialist, we’d have a public option in the healthcare bill and he would have done away with the Bush tax cuts the first time around.

  9. palmcoaster says:

    @Dave Francis. What is really scary is to read your extreme rant!
    Imagine us all leaving in our country under the foot of individuals like you that play/preach to the world the human rights cartel and demand the opposite to enforce injustice and inhumane abuses at home.
    Keep up the good work with your Tea Party rhetoric, helping the incumbent in the White House to be re-elected.

  10. Jim. R says:

    It may have been the wrong place, but it was the right question. Here’s why

  11. kafantaris says:

    A reporter reports. When you insert yourself into the story, by heckling or otherwise, you become part of the story.
    Being on the side of the angels does not change this. You are still an observer — the eyes and ears for the rest of us who are not there. In your own style, we merely want you to tell us what you saw and heard.
    If you cannot settle for this limited role and have the urge to do more, then please leave your reporter’s credentials at the door. There is nothing wrong with acting on your convictions. But you absolutely cannot do so while covering an event you are reporting on.
    This is the golden rule of journalism. Even pundits try to follow it.

  12. Jim. R says:

    Obama says “I’m answering your question and then doesn’t answer it. So in the minds of his supporters he answered the question, Only Obama could get away with this.
    Consider that Obama’s drone program is violating the sovereignty of at least six countries, and our borders are still not secure, so maybe this is not about terrorism or illegal immigration, maybe it’s about destroying the sovereignty of nations including our own.

  13. question says:

    Most real “Reporters” don’t have their hands in their pocket because they have a writing implement and perhaps a reporters note pad. U think? Also just a thought that maybe “Heckling PRESIDENT Obama” may be a good start on an issure regarding respect.

  14. Dorothea says:

    @Jim R
    President Obama started to answer the faux reporter’s question when the heckler interrupted Obama again. Watch the tape. If you want to see invasions of sovereign nations, just listen to the rhetoric of the neocons, the same neocons that brought us the Iraq invasion. They are now in control of Mitt Romney’s foreign policy. So sad when lefties go so far left that they become indistinquishable from T-party extreme righties.

  15. Jim. R says:

    Do you deny that Obama has become a remote control killer that thinks killing innocents is part of the price we pay to advance the empire? ( for the benefit of the elites that make $ off of wars)
    Do you deny the fact that he is selling out American workers, by signing and promoting trade deals with slave labor countries?
    Did you read the link I put up above ?
    There really is no evil Obama could do that would change your mind, is there?
    To vote for either of these two power hungry fakes is be complicit in the evil they do and will do.
    There is no lesser of two evils in this race, they are both irredeemably and equally evil .

  16. Dorothea says:

    @Jim R.

    Yes, I read the article in Common Dreams. I don’t agree with you or the article’s premise. However, many of your political compatriots, who are unable to discern the vast difference between an Obama presidency and a Romney presidencey will find out for yourselves should you hand over the presidency to Romney by not voting for either of them. Good luck, you will need it.

    As for me, when Romney states that the ideal Supreme Court Justice is Scalia and look at the appointments made by Obama, Sonia Sotomeyer and Elena Kagan, and another soon to become vacant (Ruth Bader Guinsber) I fear for the future of our country with a Romney presidency. When I count the millions of dollars going into Romney’s campaign from huge corporations and billionaires, I fear for the future of this country. (Do you think that this money has no strings attached?) When you, assuming you are in the 99%, have your taxes raised, while the 1% pay less, fork it over. After all, that’s what you allowed when you failed to vote for either candidate. When you can no longer afford medical insurance because Romney repealed the Affordable Care Act, my advice is, don’t get sick and if you do, don’t complain.

  17. Jim. R says:

    Well I guess that means you think free trade deals with slave labor countries are good for us , can you back up that opinion?
    Do you think the money Obama raises have no strings attached? How silly, both campaigns are fueled by corporate money. Do you think that the very same crooks in the banking industry responsible for the problems, ended up in Obama’s administration by accident?
    When Obama was elected all those good Democrats that were so outraged by Bush’s illegal wars suddenly were silent. What Obama is doing with his illegal drone attacks, and assassinations of American citizens ,without a trial, is far worse and should be cause for good Democrats to call for his impeachment. That will never happen because loyalty to the party is the important thing, not reality.
    One of the fantasies that so called liberal/progressive Democrats engage in is that when Obama wins this election and doesn’t have to worry about running again, he will become the Obama they really wanted, what a joke, he will continue to serve his corporate masters. That means more aggression around the world ,more jobs lost to cheap labor countries and more meaningless speeches from Obama

  18. question says:

    By the way…how far has “Journalism” sunk when a Tucker Carlson website can be referred to as:

    “a legitimate, D.C.-based online news and commentary website”? Them getting a White House Press Pass is about as insane as the Salahis crashing that White House dinner.

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