On Tuesday night's edition of "The Rachel Maddow Show," host Rachel Maddow examined the gap between what average Americans are concerned about and what the Beltway press corps is concerned about, and how these concerns are reflected in the kinds of questions they ask when given access to politicians.
Parents magazine hosted an online town hall meeting with Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday, asking Biden questions submitted by readers through the magazine's Facebook page. Maddow played a video clip of some of the questions.
"Does it make sense to provide armed guards for our schools like those that are provided for government buildings?" asked one reader. "Do you believe that banning certain weapons and high capacity magazines will mean that law-abiding citizens will then become more of a target to criminals?" asked another, followed by, "Should parents who don't have guns in their homes demand to know which of their children's friends are gun owners?"
In the video, Biden seemed surprised that these were the kinds of questions readers were asking. Maddow echoed his surprise, saying that usually articles in Parents have titles like "Is home birth for you?" and "Is 'Clean your plate' a recipe for obesity?"
But most people, she said, are going to save up their most important questions for a sitting vice president rather than asking him, "Should I clean my plate?"
"People are going to ask him hard questions," Maddow said. "Even in that non-journalism-based, Facebook-moderated forum."
But on the other end of the spectrum, she continued, this past weekend, President Barack Obama spend some time in Florida and went golfing with some friends, including pro golfing legend Tiger Woods.
However, "The White House press corps is very angry about this weekend," she noted, because they weren't allowed to watch the game. The pool reporters who generally track the president's every move were kept away from the golf game, while one single reporter, a writer from Golf Digest, was allowed to observe.
Reporters were furious. ABC's Ann Compton called it "a disgrace." Ed Henry of Fox News said that a mood of "extreme frustration" gripped the press corps. Politico accused the president of being "strangely fearful" of them.
Maddow went on to say that the president and vice president have both gone out of their way to make themselves available to questions from ordinary citizens, who have asked in town hall meetings about the Democratic Party's stance on Internet freedom, about tax deductions for homeowners and how to prevent abuse of software patents.
Those substantive questions about real policy issues came from people at a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session with President Obama and from questions submitted to the president via Twitter, not from paid journalists who are charged with covering the White House.
"The professional press corps plays an important role," said Maddow, "no matter how you feel about the Beltway media."
But, she said, there is something important there, which you see in the gaps between the kinds of questions asked by Beltway media types and the kinds of questions ordinary people ask of people in power when they get the chance, which seem to come, in Maddow's words, "from totally different universes."
Politico led the pack of angry press corps dissenters in the wake of the golf trip to Florida, but media critic Greg Mitchell pointed out that when Politico's Mike Allen has had access to President George W. Bush during the 2008 election, he asked questions like, "All right. Mr. President, who does the better impression, Will Ferrell of you, or Dana Carvey of your father?" and "Now, Mr. President, you and the First Lady appeared on American Idol's charity show, 'Idol Gives Back.' And I wonder who do you think is going to win? Syesha, David Cook, or David Archuleta?"
Watch the video, embedded below via MSNBC: