Obama’s news conference

Did you watch it? What did you think?

As usual, I think the new pres handled himself well. The guy's just chock full o' poise. I also think he made some good points selling portions of his stimulus plan — particularly the green energy and medical records parts.

And as usual, when I force myself to watch one of these things, I sympathized with him and what he was trying to say, and got really irritated at some the stupid, facile, superficially provocative questions the media reps asked. For instance, I know we're supposed to think Helen Thomas is cute or something because she's so old, but what the hell did she mean by "so-called terrorists" (which the president politely called her down for, by setting out quite clearly what a terrorist is). And did she really want the president to blurt out, in response to her hectoring (see how she kept asking it, talking over him?), who in the Mideast has nukes and who doesn't? What did she expect him to say, something like "Oh, you mean, besides Israel?" Does she think a new president should gab with her, in front of the country, about whatever juicy tidbits he's picked up at those cool intel briefings?

And who was it, the CNN guy? who asked, as this guy's walking in the door and beginning to turn our resources more fully toward a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, "Hey, when can we leave Afghanistan?" What kinds of questions are these? Are they randomly chosen from questions overheard on the street, or what? What sort of intelligent answer could anyone possibly expect from such a question?

And The Huffington Post? A blog? A representative of Arianna Huffington gets a question, as opposed to… I don't know… the Chicago Tribune? What do they do, drag these names out of a hat? Or is it, "let's give one to a serious newspaper, one to a network, throw in a blog, and if there's a little old lady in tennis shoes we'll give her a shot, too?"

I've never really liked the combination of journalism and theater that is the news conference… all that posturing and primping before one's peers and the folks at home, everybody trying to impress somebody, and mostly persuading everyone as to what idiots they are. The very few such events I attended as a reporter, I kept my mouth shut rather than be part of the show. If I couldn't find out what I needed to know before such a cattle call, I wasn't doing my job. Later, as an editor, I told reporters they'd BETTER have the whole story ahead of time, and preferably have it filed. They should then attend the show on the remote chance that something would come up they didn't know already. They were not to ask questions during the conference unless they couldn't get them answered any other way (which they should regard as a failure), for the simple fact that they'd better know a LOT more than the TV and radio types who live off such events, so why should they get to feed off your good questions?

It occurs to me as I reminisce that I was not the easiest editor for a reporter to work for… probably a good thing I defected to editorial in 1994, and left all that behind.

Oh, well. I think I'll read some Moby Dick and go to bed.

31 thoughts on “Obama’s news conference

  1. Brad Warthen

    Oh, by the way, I should probably say this to cover my bases — I did NOT catch the beginning of what the POTUS had to say, I came in on the part about energy policy and health records. So maybe he said some dumb stuff before that (which I doubt), but I’m sure y’all will tell me if that’s the case.
    And yeah, I could have waited to post this until after I’d gone back and seen the start or read a transcript, but I thought I’d go ahead and give y’all a post on which to say what YOU (who I am sure watched every second of it) thought about it.

  2. Peter Kaufman

    Hello, South Carolina!
    Just in case you’re wondering – here in ‘blue’ America, we think Helen Thomas is crazy, too.
    Is she trying to channel Pierre Salinger, Gore Vidal, Hassan Nasrallah?

  3. Doug Ross

    I watched the whole thing.
    While I don’t agree with Obama’s approach to the stimulus plan, it is such a breath of fresh air to watch a President who can at least make his case intelligently. After eight years of the fratboy notecard-reader, it was a nice change.
    Unfortunately, much like the USC Gamecocks, it doesn’t matter who is in charge if the players on the field are self-interested and ill-equipped in the fundamentals.
    Nothing that term limits on the Senate and House wouldn’t help solve. Until we can get congressmen who truly are interested in the betterment of the country, it won’t make a bit of difference who sits in the Oval Office.

  4. Boston Dan

    Helen Thomas’ question about Israel’s nuclear arsenal was a softball for the President. Basically an in your face moment for the brainless right-wing idiots that thought he was going to be the Manchurian Muslim Candidate.

  5. Richard L. Wolfe

    Unless the president is telling us Pearl Harbor just got bombed or the equivalent, I have always thought ( regardless of whose the president ) white house press briefing are a waste of time. The press corp always sounds stupid and the president looks good because he controls the room. He can choose to answer or sidestep any question he desires.

  6. Steve Gordy

    p.m., you could add up every blinkin’ earmark from 2001 to the present (including the stimulus bill) and it wouldn’t add up to what we’ve spent trying to force Iraq into the mold of a western democracy.

  7. Lee Muller

    How many terrorist attacks and lives lost do the liberals think is tolerable? Is there any point at which they would lift a finger to defend themselves, much less someone else?
    9/11 was a real emergency, requiring genuine fast response.
    Spending a trillion dollars over 5 years on a backlog of pork projects does not address the immediate job losses, most of which are due to liberal legislation.

  8. bud

    It was stunning to see a president who could actually talk intelligently about issues in the pressure packed environment of a press conference. Even more impressive was his performance in Indiana. Imagine Bush showing up in a town that voted for John Kerry and answering real questions, tough ones at that, without all the screening that goes with it. One lady asked Obama about the problems with his cabinet appointees tax evasion issues. Rather than dodge it he simply said it was a legitimate concern and something he would pay more attention to in the future. Imagine President Sarah Palin in such a venue. I shudder to even think about such a horror.

  9. bud

    9/11 was a real emergency, requiring genuine fast response.
    What we have here is the blog equivalent of the hanging curve ball. Lee, go watch our idiot former president as he continues to read “My Pet Goat” loooooooooooong after he KNEW a terrorist attach was under way. Just watch the video. If his actions on that day constituted a fast response then Alex Rodriguez played baseball without the aid of performancing enhancing drugs.

  10. Lee Muller

    Obama visited an elementary school last week and read a book to the students, while Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid scraped up every piece of pork they could into a spending bill.
    Obama is just the front man, the mouthpiece, selling old Democrat projects that could not pass in regular appropriations bills, much less on their own.

  11. Lee Muller

    Elkhart, Indiana is out of work because liberals wrecked the RV and SUV market, which are manufactured in Elkhart.
    Obama has no answer for saving those jobs.
    His answer is extended unemployment checks, welfare, Food Stamps, and vague job training for the far-distant mythical “green jobs”.
    He could go to any town and his answer to the jobs destroyed by his Democrat comrades is the same for everyone: “Only the government.”

  12. Doug Ross

    All the liberal thinkers out there should watch this video of Milton Friedman explaining the concept of greed and capitalism. In two minutes he obliterates the whole “we’re all in this together” mentality that pervades this society.

    Greed in the form of self-interest is what moves society forward.

  13. Lee Muller

    Socialists, liberals and others who have never been in business only know their personal greed. They do not understand the concept of Enlightened Self Interest which runs the free market.
    As you said, Doug, if there really is such a need for domestic spending, why not end all foreign aid and spend the money in America?
    If there are not enough jobs for American citizens, why are we tolerating 20,000,000 illegal workers from Mexico?

  14. gayguy

    It bothers me when you go getting all worked up,Lee.A full body massage could really get your,uh,mind off the woes of the world…
    BTW-Who’s Peter Kaufman ? And why does he have to come Down South to beat up on little ‘ol ladies?

  15. Doug Ross

    And let’s not forget that even with 7% unemployment, 93% of people DO have jobs. And there are jobs out there available for people who are willing to work, willing to make decisions to move to where jobs are, willing to invest time in learning new skills.
    As Lee said, we could open up a bunch of jobs for Americans if the laws regarding entering the country illegally and employing workers without proper documentation were enforced.
    How much of a strain on the economy is a result of tax dollars being spent on illegal immigrants?

  16. blue bunny

    i listened to the first half hour on the radio and he seemed to be talking fast and with to an edge to his voice like he was nervous. i thought the ‘no earmarks’ line was especially humorous, and wondered aloud whether he could stand behind it. of course none of the ‘journalists’ would challenge him on it. someone shouold tell him its time to get past ‘blame bush’, he knew what he was inheriting when he took the job, and to think another trillion in debt is inconsequential is ludicis. I mourn for my country, the ones who died defending it, and my children who will be paying for this incompetence.
    The O and the current Senate present a great case for the repeal of the seventeenth amendment.

  17. bud

    As much as I like Obama that was one incredibly boring press conference. Every point discussed was stated previously in different venues by different people. The Elkorn, Indiana town-hall address was far more interesting.

  18. bud

    And let’s not forget that even with 7% unemployment, 93% of people DO have jobs.
    Unemployment is at 7.4% and rising. But that just doesn’t tell the whole story. There are thousands of discouraged workers who simply gave up. There are millions of others who are underemployed. Folks are suffering. It’s just not true that there are jobs out there that people simply refuse to accept. Job training is not readily available. And even if it is the costs to acquire the skills is prohibitive, especially for older workers.

  19. Doug Ross

    Give us some examples of the people who are suffering? Auto workers who allowed their unions to price them out of the marketplace? Manufacturing workers who should have seen the writing on the wall years ago and begun the process of finding new skills?
    According to statistics I saw yesterday, the sector with the lowest unemployment is: Government workers. Imagine that. 3% unemployment.

  20. p.m.

    Thank you, bud. You have created a new category. I can hear NBC News now telling us that unemployment is up to 8 percent and the worker discouragement index has skyrocketed to 51.3 percent.
    As Obama said last night, his “bottom line is 4 million jobs saved or created.”
    How do you measure jobs saved? When have a lot of workers not been discouraged?
    Let’s face it. Some jobs aren’t a whole lot of fun, and a thousand years from now, some jobs still won’t be a whole lot of fun.
    Next year, 4 million people will still have the same jobs they have now, so Obama’s bottom line is a given — 4 million jobs will be saved, even if not one permanent job is created by his $850 million boondoggle.

  21. Brad Warthen

    A kind reader reminds me via e-mail that I forgot to complain about maybe the stupidest question of all:

    Here I am, a 55 year old single American who has been unemployed for months on end, and all the while paying for my own Individual Health Insurance, worried that the stimulus package is NOT going to help me on the health issue because it ONLY seems to be targeted to those with “COBRA” Health Insurance plans, and hoping so much that a reporter will ask about health insurance or about the health of America——–and what question do we get from one of the last reporters to ask a question???—-What does Obama think about the A-Rod steroid scandal.

    I sort of missed that question — I think I was clicking from one channel to another, noting that none of them were synchronized (if you clicked in the right direction, you could hear the same sentence spoken twice, or even three times — “I hear everything twice!“) — but then I heard Obama answering, in all seriousness, and I thought with horror, “Did somebody just ask him about baseball?!?!?

    At that moment, I thought, if I were president, I’d answer sarcastically. I’d say something like, “This is a news conference. I think the sports conference is down the hall.”

  22. Lee Muller

    Gee, Brad, did you think Obama was going to look into the TV camera and announce a bailout for YOU?
    The spending bill does have $50 BILLION to start up socialized medicine, by having every doctor submit their planned treatment to a government agency for approval. They will deny care to the elderly and others for whom it is “not cost beneficial”, like 55-year-old whining editors.

  23. Lee Muller

    Sounds like you didn’t bother to read any details of the Pelosi Porkulus Bill, Brad. Go read the parts around page 440 on federal oversight of medical diagnoses and treatment – rationing of care and denial of treatment.
    “Here I am, a 55 year old single American who has been unemployed for months on end, and all the while paying for my own Individual Health Insurance, worried that the stimulus package is NOT going to help me on the health issue because it ONLY seems to be targeted to those with “COBRA” Health Insurance plans, and hoping so much that a reporter will ask about health insurance or about the health of America-”
    Asking Obama about a baseball player or benefits for McDonald’s workers is no more banal than a grown man expecting a politician to give him “free” health care.

  24. Brad Warthen

    Doug says to bud, “Give us some examples of the people who are suffering…” which makes me think, do you not KNOW people who are suffering? I certainly do — family and friends, folks from a wide variety of lines of work, people who had good jobs not long ago. None of them are autoworkers.

    I’m not going to pry into their privacy by naming names, but I’ll mention one whose job loss HAS been reported: David Stanton. There was no one better at his job in the local broadcast market. More than that, he’s a truly decent human being who deals with everyone with respect. And zip!, he’s gone.

    Just a couple of months ago, I mentioned here running into David at Lizard’s Thicket, and he was talking about how his station wasn’t sending anybody to cover the SC delegation at the political conventions (I don’t think anybody around here sent anybody other than The State; I decided not to go myself because we’re so shorthanded in editorial, having lost 55 percent of my staff).

    Do you really not have anybody in your immediate circle who is affected by this downward-spinning economy? If you don’t, that’s remarkable. And strange.

  25. Lee Muller

    Yes, I know lots of executives who put all investment in new projects on hold as soon as Hillary conceded the primaries to Obama. They are gearing up projects overseas, until they see what the Democrats do. So far, it looks bad with all this orgy of spoils system spending.
    Sooner or later, the rulers get cocky and push their luck, and every government ends up in the street, with the last rulers being hunted down by the angry mobs they created.

  26. Doug Ross

    Over course there are people who lose their jobs all the time. Unless we’re talking full communism, it will always happen. Businesses expand and contract. Good people lose their jobs. Good people also keep their jobs or do what is necessary to prepare for the bad times.
    I don’t know Mr. Stanton but he seemed pretty competent at his job. But that industry (as well as yours) is changing rapidly. Is it a shock that a media company in Columbia, SC would target older, white males when they make cuts?
    Do you think your own Mike Fitts saw the handwriting on the wall and got out before he was pushed out? Isn’t that the way we should all approach our jobs – staying ahead of the curve?
    What do you want the government to do to help David Stanton get another job?

  27. Lee Muller

    When you lose your job under communism, it means you are costing more to feed than the work you produce. They shoot you in the back of the head.
    Under Democratic Socialism, they vote to deny you medical treatment in order to take you off the Social Security and Medicare rolls.


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