DorobekInsider: What question would you ask President Obama — Mine: Define “bureaucrat”

Friday - 9/18/2009, 10:47am EDT

President Obama is running the gambit this weekend — five Sunday public affairs shows. My personal favorite is the new CNN Sunday show, State of the Union with John King, and not just because my good friend, Michelle Jaconi, is the executive producer. (Yes, the show is remarkably produced, but… if you haven’t checked out the 11p ET segment, they pull together what has been on all the other Sunday shows… I’m not quite sure how they get it all done, but… it’s great stuff!)

In addition to CNN’s State of the Union, President Obama will also be on ABC’s This Week, NBC’s Meet the Press, CBS’s Face the Nation, and Univision.)

And CNN’s State of the Union Twitter feed asked the simple question yesterday: If you could ask one question for President Obama, what would it be?

My question: Federal workers have felt bruised out of the health care debate — and the important work that feds do has been diminished — almost dismissed. At every turn, people denouncing the work of government — and then, even the president used the “b-word” — bureaucrat — in his NYT editorial, as the WP’s Federal Eye pointed out:

As the health care reform debate continues, some close observers have noticed President Obama’s increased use of the word “bureaucrat” when assuring audiences that the government will not intervene in future health care decisions.

In Sunday’s New York Times, Obama stated, “If you have health insurance, we will make sure that no insurance company or government bureaucrat gets between you and the care you need.”…

Use of “the b-word” is frowned upon by federal workers unions and other longtime members of the federal bur… (gulp), uh, federal government community.

While I don’t really have a problem with the term, I understand most government workers do — and my sense is that is largely because of the tone that goes along with it.

Max Stier, the president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, wrote an op-ed in the WP on Saturday headlined, What Ever Happened To ‘Cool’?

It seems that you are willing to use — at least for the sake of health-care reform — the misguided language that government workers are incompetent and can’t be trusted. It’s a flawed strategy that only perpetuates the lack of trust in our government and reinforces negative stereotypes.

One can legitimately agree or disagree with the proposal to have a publicly run health-insurance option as part of comprehensive health-care reform, but there is no need to denigrate the quality or ability of our federal workers during this debate.

The truth, as you know, is that government “bureaucrats” are getting it right every day. They are on the front lines working to address the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, working on issues related to two foreign wars, working to ensure that we remain competitive in an increasingly global market, and working to keep us safe day in and day out.

They deserve better from their president. As the nation’s leading public servant, you are their boss, and they take their cues from you.

And we’ll be talking to the Partnership for Public Service about this today on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris.

So… my question for the President: What would he say to federal workers these days? What’s the message that he is sending?

What question would you ask the president?