Thoughts on the president’s presser? Share them here…

I’ve sort of been listening along during the president’s pre-holiday press availability while doing other stuff.

I liked the question — I forget who asked it, and pressed it, but he was pretty insistent — that amounted to this: Mr. President, several months ago you said the NSA wasn’t doing anything wrong. Why do you think the procedures need to be changed now?

It was a good question. The president was right — there was nothing wrong with our surveillance programs then, and there isn’t now. What has happened is that the drip, drip, drip of details — which haven’t revealed anything significant regarding policy itself, but have merely attached names and specifics (things we did not need to know), and it has had an erosive effect on public opinion. Exactly as Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald intended.

And while he sort of danced around it, the president essentially said that: There’s nothing wrong with these programs, but political opinion has changed, so we’re reacting to that. And the way we’re reacting is that we’re looking for ways to get the intel job done with some procedural changes that make people feel better.

Which is not terrible in and of itself. But I would much, much rather that the president stand up to this propaganda campaign by two people who are trying to harm this nation, and argue against the public impression that their efforts have created. Because by reacting by making changes — or even reacting by trying to make it appear that we are making changes — tells any other minor players with a God complex that if they betray this country by disclosing classified information with which they have been entrusted, they will achieve their goals.

That creates an extremely dangerous precedent.

Now, as to the Obamacare comments, two things jumped out.

I reacted initially the way Ali Weinberg did: “Has Obama ever said before that he was only meeting with health care team ‘every other week, every three weeks’?”

But about two seconds later, I reflected that hey, having a meeting every two or three weeks with a bunch of underlings to make sure they’re doing their jobs is fairly often, given that a POTUS does have a few other responsibilities. It’s way short of micromanaging, but it’s more than “only.”

Then, I noticed that CBSNews reported, “Obama takes blame on health care rollout: ‘Since I’m in charge, we screwed it up’.”

Ummm… no, not really. In fact, when I heard him say it, it struck me as a case of verbal contortion, in an effort to fall just short of taking the blame personally.

That’s really a bizarre construction: “Since I’m in charge” sounds like he’s about to take the blame, but “we screwed it up” rather startlingly shares the blame with others.

I haven’t heard an acceptance of responsibility that tortured since “Mistakes were made.”

Any other thoughts on the president’s remarks today?

7 thoughts on “Thoughts on the president’s presser? Share them here…

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Friday afternoons, I read Carolyn Hax’s online chat….

      And I think POTUS sounded about as good as he could. This is not news to your regular readers, that I thought this…..

  1. Bryan Caskey

    Just read through the press conference transcript. I’m not very impressed with the questions asked. They were mostly general, vague questions, or multiple questions strung together, so the President could talk about whichever one he wanted to.

    Protip from a lawyer for all you journalists: The best questions are short and specific.

  2. Doug Ross

    Are you comfortable stating that there wasn’t a single piece of information leaked by Snowden that didn’t make you stop for just a second to question whether the government SHOULD be doing that? And how would Americans know about it otherwise? Am I supposed to trust Joe Wilson to represent me?

    Just wait til the stuff Snowden is holding to protect himself from being executed is released.

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    Yes, I’m comfortable saying that.

    “Comfortable” isn’t the same as 100 percent. Am I happy about Angela Merkel’s calls being listened to? Not entirely.

    But… and here’s where some will go ballistic… I’d be OK with us doing it as long as she never found out about it. Or… as long as she knew about it, but never had to publicly acknowledge that she knew. THAT’S the bad thing — her learning about it, and having to get all indignant, and the diplomatic foofooraw that ensues in such cases. The very “transparency” that is so essential to Snowden and others like him can by itself be enormously destructive to the conduct of affairs between nations.

    Beyond specifics such as that, or specifics about this or that subpoena, or specifics about which phone companies were giving up which information — none of which I had any need to know, and the revelation of which just causes a lot of trouble for all involved — I really can’t think of anything he has revealed that I didn’t know.

    The MAIN thing — that we were sifting metadata looking for patterns that might lead to terrorist activity — was something we already knew, right? And it didn’t bother me before, and doesn’t bother me now. Have at it, NSA — that’s what I say.

  4. bud

    One of the really fascinating aspects of this whole NSA issue is that folks seem to be more comfortable with a private company holding all this personal information rather than the Federal government. Given the really untrustworthy nature of so many businesses that really is puzzling. Private companies often have such little regard for the welfare of their customers it seems that people have this backwards. Ford was ok with allowing people to get blown up in Pintos rather than install a cheap part. They figured the lawsuits would be cheaper than the part. Then we have the whole banking sector that seemed utterly indifferent to it’s mortgage customers. And we have the oil companies who fight every safety measure that could prevent and Exxon Valdez or a major Gulf spill. Not to mention the ongoing environmental disaster resulting from fracking. And of course there is the diabolical outrage of ENRON. Now we have Target with their failure to prevent millions of customers from having their credit and debit cards compromised.

    Do people not get that private companies are in it for profit and not for the welfare of American citizens? It’s true that in a competitive environment along with useful regulatory safeguards a capitalist economy can work well for the people. That’s why mergers should be generally opposed unless indisputable economies of scale can be demonstrated. Sadly in too many industries we end up with little in the way of economies of scale but a lot of too big to fail.

    The invisible hand must be provided some guidance. Otherwise it can be a very dangerous appendage.

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