TV review: We need a little less respect for US President Barack Obama

President Obama speaks to Director of the White House Office for Health Reform, Nancy-Ann DeParle and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett. Picture by Pete Souza
Billy Foley

INSIDE Obama’s White House, BBC 2, Tuesday at 9pm

It all seems so dull compared to the prospect of what’s ahead.

But I don’t know if I can wait seven years for Inside Trump’s White House - now that would be a fly on the wall documentary worth watching.

Even the morning hairdressing scene would be a riot. Presumably everything is going to be riots in Trump’s angry America.

For now we have a peek inside the historic Obama White House.

Sure it’s important programming and the access was fantastic, but I was left a little cold and disappointed by it.

It kind of reminded me of a behind the scenes programme the Dublin gaelic football team made a few years ago after they won an All-Ireland. There was fantastic access but we saw nothing the PR men didn’t want the public knowing about.

What you wanted was the warts and all approach of the Lions 1987 tour to South Africa, where the team filmed themselves getting pissed.

Early on in this first of four episodes about Obama’s time in office, his political adviser David Alexrod told us about a lively meeting with the president.

“He called me a name I hadn’t heard before or since, and stormed out of the room.”

Well, what was the name? The interviewer didn’t even ask him.

You kind of knew then that we were going to get the sanitised version. I suppose the fact that they waited more than seven years to show even these clips was a fair indicator of their appetite for controversy.

Of course there was some interesting stuff, such as the thinking inside the White House about how to negotiate with the Republicans over the stimulus package Obama wanted to introduce.

And his reaction to the near economic collapse he walked into in 2008.

But overall it was way too respectful, too conscious (although it was never mentioned) of the significance of a black man in the White House.

We heard from loads of significant people, strategists and senior staff - Axelrod, Tim Geithner and Nancy Pelosi - but mostly the story was one of Obama’s principled determination to help people against the republican’s blocking strategies.

I’ve no doubt I’ll watch the next three-episodes but every time I hear a sentence start with “Mr president …” I’ll scream a little louder.

Surely somebody calls this fella by his name.


Budget Speech, BBC news channel, Wednesday at 12.30pm

Over at Westminster there was more political drama - although George Osborne was getting called a few names not chosen by his mother.

British politics has its own problems, but overdoing the respect is not one of them.

I appreciate I’ve gotten a little political in the TV review this week, but I haven’t seen a budget speech in full in years.

I happened to be off on Wednesday whereas normally I’m in the newsroom where you tend to get lots of little bits of information about many things.

Whatever your view of Osborne’s politics, you have to admit that he’s a canny operator.

Fair enough, he’s missed most of his own targets but it’s undeniable that he’s got Britain going in the right direction.

He’s managed to work out a deal with Cameron and will smoothly slip into his master’s position before the next election.

If Osborne’s strategy comes off, Britain will be running a current budget surplus for the first time in more than a decade when he faces the people as Conservative leader.

It’s an impressive plan.

Although Gordon Brown looked impressed at Blair’s chancellor and look how that turned out.


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