What Sean-Paul said, pretty much. Overall the questions were less hard hitting than I would have liked, but I can understand why folks might be intimidated by the President of the US. I expected nothing of Oliver Willis, and like Sean-Paul, I don’t read Kos.
However, I’ll say publicly what I’ve said privately: Obama reaches out to bloggers only when he’s in trouble. During the election, the only time period we were seriously consulted was during the brief period when Obama was behind John McCain.
As for the lack of hard-hitting questions, sure they may have been intimidated a bit, but the real question is, do you want to be in the club or not? If you want easy access to the White House, then ask puff-ball questions, because that’s how the process of co-opting works. But if you want real change, then tough questions need to be asked.
And they can be asked in a non-insulting way. Warren Olney is a master at this. Instead of asking Obama “Are you in an unholy alliance with Wall Street” say “How do you respond to those who say you are in an unholy alliance with Wall Street.” This may seem like a silly difference, but in reality, it puts the interview on a non-personal level.
As for the process of being co-opted, it’s subtle. As an example, I once worked at a music magazine. Record companies deluged us with free records and backstage passes, which was certainly nice. But once you get friendly with their PR staff and get used to the perks, well, it can be difficult to pan their new release if you think it’s a dog. So, instead, you might ignore it or farm the review out to someone who likes it. Journalists and bloggers often face the same type of situation.