Obama’s Press Conference

Last night’s press conference (transcript here) was not terrifically newsworthy. What was most significant was that Obama is already on his second press conference  in office. In comparison, both Bill Clinton and George Bush each only had four news conferences  during eight years in office.

Another aspect of significance is that Obama allowed follow up questions. Many politicians avoid this as it makes it much more difficult to avoid answering a question. A consequence of this (along with keeping the press conference on time to limit network protests) was that only thirteen reporters got to ask questions:

Here’s the list of reporters in order: Jennifer Loven (AP), Chuck Todd (NBC), Jake Tapper (ABC), Chip Reid (CBS), Lourdes Meluza (Univision), Kevin Baron (Stars and Stripes), Ed Henry (CNN), Major Garrett (Fox News), Mike Allen (POLITICO), Kevin Chappell (Ebony), Ann Compton (ABC Radio), Jon Ward (Washington Times) and Stephen Collinson (AFP).

In a year in which the print media is already having serious problems, it is notable that reporters from  major newspapers such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post did not get any questions. The most significant newspaper to get a question was the conservative Washington Times. Broadcast media did well, along with outlets which are often overlook such as Stars and Stripes and Ebony.

I might have to reconsider my support for Chuck Todd to take over as moderator of Meet the Press if he continues to ask questions as bad as the one he asked last night. Chuck Todd asked why Obama isn’t asking for more sacrifice from Americans as might be expected during a crisis such as a war. While it makes sense to question Bush’s attempt to pay for the Iraq war on credit and not have any sacrifices by Americans, this is hardly an analogous situation. The whole point of government action during difficult economic times is to try to reduce the suffering of those who are already suffering and making sacrifices.

Of course we cannot have Obama do anything without a repetition of some right wing memes. The Anonymous Liberal criticizes some of the questions along with the criticism of Obama for using a teleprompter his  prepared comments. Considering that Obama gave lengthy answers to unscreened questions, along with follow up questions, without a teleprompter, his use of a teleprompter to include a prepared statement is hardly an issue. Some opponents tried to make an issue of this during the campaign despite numerous appearances in which Obama  also did just fine without a teleprompter. I don’t think such attacks will get much traction. Most viewers are probably just happy to have a president who can answer questions intelligibly. James Fallows adds:

The important point with Obama is that the content, command of fact and concept, and overall intelligence of his extemporized answers matched that of the scripted presentation. That could not have been so if he were teleprompter-dependent. For example: by the end of his term, George W. Bush had become quite effective in delivering a formal speech. His interview- and press conference performance if anything deteriorated through his time in office.

The whole “Obama can’t talk on his own” concept is bizarre, given his performance through two years of stump speeches and debates during the campaign. But it seems to have gotten so much credence in the right-wing world that it is worth addressing head on.


  1. 1
    DrToketee says:

    I agree with your recent re-assessment of Chuck Todd. He’s been for some time some sort of “Political Director” over there at MSNBC, but I never understood why. Rarely have I ever thought his opinions and observations truly insightful and deep. Even his “expert electoral vote analysis” was often inferior and out-of-date to what could be quickly accessed on FiveThirtyEight.com and the Princeton consortium sites. In fact, I have frequently found myself responding to the screen saying, “What?! You didn’t even get the point!”. Compared to Olbermann, Maddow and Matthews, Todd is an obvious lightweight.

  2. 2
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I don’t think much of Matthews, but I have a very high regard for Olbermann and Maddow. Compared to the two of them, /most/ people in journalism are lightweights. I find myself having a higher regard for Olbermann than for many people who have been professional pundits for years, and Rachel Maddow is an exceptionally piercing commentator whose grounding in her topics shows whenever she speaks.

    It’s a shame we don’t have journalists who measure up to the standards of a small handful of pundits and comedians.

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