Why is a man among women considered brave? There are greater acts of courage to be accomplished — like, say, running for president at a time of crisis. Still, when President Barack Obama decided to make daytime talk-show history and show up for a sitdown with the ladies of The View, the first punch line was the most obvious: "You're a man; we're women. Scary!"
"You've gone through a little bit of a beating over the last month," said co-host Barbara Walters as she sat next to Obama. "Do you really think being on a show with a bunch of women, who never shut up, is going to be calming?" And the crowd, all hopped up on estrogen, goes wild.
"Look," replied the president, who seemed more than comfortable, "I was trying to find a show that Michelle actually watched, and this is it right here."
So it was another woman who led this man to the slaughter. Perhaps the first lady (a veteran of The View's couch herself) was offering up her husband as a sacrifice to the Emmy gods. In 13 seasons, daytime's answer to male-dominated punditry has won only two Emmys: one for Outstanding Talk Show in 2003 and another last year for Outstanding Talk Show Hosts.
Dressed as if they were on their way to either a funeral or a very solemn bar mitzvah, all five hosts showed up on Thursday to besiege the president on what he called "couches made for these little people." The teasers leading up to the historic event were filled with Technicolor stars and stripes boasting the red, white and View, but what actually happened was a fireside chat with no wind for the flame. Women in this case are no scarier than those kids who read the news for fun on YouTube.
"I am happy to be the first daytime talk-show host to ever say these words: When we come back, President Barack Obama will be here," gushed Whoopi Goldberg right before Obama took the main stage. That same Sweeps Week wonderment filled the rest of the women, who usually have opinions for the next hour. Sure, they asked some halfway journalistic questions about oil, racism, Afghanistan, but if there had to be a choice between being polite and being a pundit, The View's hosts picked tea and crumpets every time.
"I don't spend a lot of time worrying about me; I spend a lot of time worrying about them," Obama said, sounding a lot like a stay-at-home mom fretting over the fate of her children. Many of those same moms were probably at home watching.
Now, The View obviously isn't This Week, which premieres this Sunday with new host Christiane Amanpour, who is replacing Good Morning America's newest host, George Stephanopoulos, who replaced Diane Sawyer, who herself replaced Charles Gibson as anchor of World News. The face and gender of morning shows, hard-news magazines and Sunday talk shows is clearly shifting, so it's no big stretch to assume that women can ask tough questions when they want to — and get them answered.
I definitely didn't want Thursday's red, white and View hour to devolve into the blowhard four-square that dominates cable news punditry, but I still can't help thinking the co-hosts of The View missed an opportunity not to talk at the president but at least to truly talk to him. Maybe that's impossible now. He did admit that only 10 people have his BlackBerry information, and they never send him anything juicy. The president lives in a bubble.
The women rarely interrupted, allowing Obama to put a period on each one of his thoughts, out of respect for his office — or his gender — I don't know. They grilled Nadya Suleman like a fish, and I assume they'd do the same to Mel Gibson. "If you're not sick of us yet, then stick around," joked Walters before a commercial break. With a couch as comfortable as theirs ("Who are we?" asked Whoopi), why would he ever leave?