Live Blogging Obama’s Second Press Conference

8 pm – We are using the NBC feed. Obama leads with the opening statement, trying to get his message across before the questions lead him in a direction he doesn’t want to go…  note that he’s talking over the media’s head here – he’s talking directly into the camera.  This is one reason journalists didn’t like live press conferences – they get relegated to the backdrop.

8:03 – He’s still claiming that he will halve the deficit in his first term.  Mark that one down for the records.

8:04 – pushing the budget.  Remember, this

8:05 – here’s the populist attack on the bonus babies…

8:06  He’s not at his best with the teleprompter.  This is a skill that is acquired through practice, but right now he talks too fast, and comes across as reading, rather than speaking.  Reagan was the best I ever saw at this.

8:07 AP correspondent goes first.  Let’s see if Obama agrees that he’s advocating “taking over” banks.

Interesting response – she’s asks about banks, he responds by using AIG (not a bank!) as his example. Why – because we all hate AIG!   Notice he doesn’t use the word “nationalize” or even “takeover” .

8:10 – Chuck Todd. NBC.  Asking the public to sacrifice?  What exactly is Chuck asking here? Isn’t unemployment a sacrifice?  A recession isn’t sacrifice?  Losing a job is sacrifice! What a ridiculous question!  I have no idea what Todd was trying to ask here….Obama is bailing him out by responding as if the question made sense.

Todd persists in making  a fool of himself with his followup…..give it up man!

8:15 Good question here (finally) on the budget deliberations – let’s see how Obama responds.  My guess is he doesn’t lay down a veto threat.  Not this early.

Nice answer: stick to general principles, don’t get bogged down in details.  In essence, Obama says he’s open to pretty much anything Congress delivers.  This is a good negotiating strategy for working with Congress – lay down principles, don’t get fixated on details. He’s for education, energy, and reducing the deficit.  Btw, he also like Mom and Apple Pie too, and Congress better not be against that.

8:20 Chip Reid presses him on budget deficits. Isn’t the Obama budget irresponsible?  Obama’s right about the impact of different assumptions on the out years of budget growth.  Not surprisingly, presidents of both parties always adopt the rosier assumptions regarding growth.

[ Max - are the reporters nervous, or clueless?]

Chip is not convinced.   Obama says some saving will come in entitlement reform – but what specific reform?  He promises it will be “bipartisan”  – is that possible in this Congress?  I think not… .  Obama claims to be lowering non-defense discretionary spending to the lowest, as a % of GDP, since the 1960’s.  This is essentially meaningless, since it’s based on rosy assumptions regarding GDP growth, and doesn’t include entitlements (nondiscretionary) programs which are the big budget busters.

8;28 – This is one of those questions designed to allow Obama to publicize how he’s responding to an immediate policy issue – in this case drug-related border violence.

8:30 – Stars and Stripes?  Another opportunity for Obama to publicize a program he wants highlighted.  Every presidents since Reagan has promised to reform procurement of military weapons.  This was a pet issue of Don Rumsfeld, and he couldn’t deliver, largely because Congress does not want real procurement reform if it means eliminating major weapons systems.

[Fred - are you suggesting that he might just lie to us?]

8:37 – Another AIG-related question suggesting Obama’s outrage was calculated and again questioning about the growth in the deficit under Obama.  And again, Obama points to the fact that he inherited a huge deficit.  Nice parry here by Obama to link deficit reduction to health care reform.  But not much here on the details of health care reform beyond the non-controversial support for better recordkeeping, better accounting, etc., to reduce costs. But this skirts the critical issue of real health care reform (as he well knows). ..

Did he just say the savings he anticipates producing will take place outside the 10-year budget projection?

Ooops – a slapdown!  I’ll show you real anger!  (btw, I hope you saw the SNL skit with “The Rock” playing Obama’s alterego, “The Rock Obama”.  You don’t want to get him angry…

8:37 – Fox news.   A world currency?  What kind of question is this?

When Obama says he hasn’t look at the latest polling around the world, he means, “go look at the latest polling”

8:40 – Ok, he’s called on an internet “journalist” – Allen is from Politico.   I’m not sure Obama’s answer here gets to the issue. He’s turning it into a tax higher incomes, but the question asks about the impact on charitable giving….Ok, now he gets it. Good finish.

8:45 Well, this is a horrible question.  What’s Obama going to say except to tout his economic recovery plan?  C’mon people, let’s not waste this opportunity.  This is likely to be the last press conference for several months… It does give Obama a chance to gets back to what he’s doing for veterans.

8:47:  Anne Compton.  Race?  What kind of a question is this?   Geez Louise – why don’t you tee it up for him?  Can you spell SOFTBALL!   This has to be the worst set of questions I’ve seen in a long while…

8:49 – WAshington Times on stem cells.  Do you think Obama wrestled with this issue?  What?  He did?  I’m shocked…SHOCKED!

OK, I’m putting out an APB for Sam Donaldson.  Where’s Dan Rather?  This is the most docile group of correspondents I have ever seen…  Were they cowed when Obama shut the first reporter up who pushed him on why he was slow to respond to the AIG bonus issue?

[Jeff[- Yep. They are writing the parody even as we watch! Can't wait for Saturday night!]

Last question…. 8:58.  Finally a foreign policy question.   But not a particularly hard one.

George MItchell?  He just dissed HIllary – she’s in charge!  Why did she ever take this job?  “Thank you Mr. President, may I have another?”  Mitchell’s not your SEcretary of State – Hillary is!!

He believes in persistence.  Quick! Cue “High Hopes” – he’s finishing with the obligatory high note.  You can knock me down, but I get right up again…

I dont’ think he wants to tout his video to Iran….

STop the presses: he’s not immediately going to bring peace to the Mideast!

A big ocean liner?  NOT THE METAPHOR TO USE – CAN YOU SPELL TITANIC?

OK – we’ll stick with NBC for the postmortem by the talking heads, but feel to jump in if you have some reactions (and I realize all you students are on break….)

OK, Chuck Todd’s take: Obama’s theme is incremental progress.  Ooops!  It’s primetime – the networks are done with this.  You’ll have to move to the cable.

Some final thoughts – press conferences are so highly staged now that they rarely serve the purpose for which they ostensibly were created – to hold the presidential accountable for decisions made (and not made) and to allow the president to communicate with the public.   I’m not sure how well tonight’s event accomplished either of these goals.  My guess is that from Obama’s perspective, he was willing to trade off facing some softball questions for the chance to present an opening statement (and closing one too) that explained his economic plans to date.  Otherwise  I don’t think much was accomplished here, except perhaps reiterating just how peripheral Hillary Clinton is to Obama’s foreign policy, and to remind us how docile the White House press corps can be.   Since I don’t have cable here, I’m not sure how (if at all) they are parsing this exchange, but I don’t see alot of news coming out of it, unless I missed something.  This is just a  reminder how sterile press conferences have become… .

I’ll be on tomorrow with reaction to the overnight pundit reviews.

9 comments

  1. Why do the reporters seem so nervous? You would think they would be used to this by now . . .

  2. Matt, I think the Saturday Night Live parody has almost written itself, don’t you think?

  3. No, I don’t think he lies. I do think the phrase indicates that he is changing preseptions from the past!

  4. Just two quick thoughts crossed my mind watching this.. 1) Is it me or does it seem like Obama is still campaigning? His first reference in response to the procurement question was McCain, something he did frequently on the campaign trail as well. He seemed fixated on the past in a few other questions as well. Obviously he needs to keep up public support for his policies but I wasn’t so aware of this listening to Bush. 2) Is it possible the press conference and Geithner’s toxic asset plan were timed together so that Obama would have something positive to talk about? If he held a press conference two weeks ago the atmosphere would have been very different (The Dow is up over 15%).

  5. Andrew – You are right that Obama see a political advantage in reminding viewers of his belief that we got in this mess in the first place because of Republican policies – it’s a smart strategy for two reasons: first, it buys time for his economic policies to kick in by reminding voters that it took a long time to get into this mess, and it delays the inevitable change in perception within the public regarding who is responsible for the current state of economic affairs. Right now, this is not Obama’s recession, but he knows it will be his eventually. As for the timing of the press conference, keep in mind that he has to request network time, so the decision to hold a press conference isn’t a last minute decision based on overnight polls. Nonetheless, you are right that they are very strategic (as all presidents are) in trying to time a press conference to coincide with what they hope is good news that can be tied to the president’s policies.

  6. I was generally not terribly impressed with the quality of the questions during the entire thing, many of them seemed too similar – although the slap-downs were pretty entertaining. In general though Obama seems to want to bring in the public during these hard choices, but naturally with such great questions some important stuff is going to get skipped over, keeping it general seemed to work. How much detail can he really get into in conferences like these without seeming overly technical? Would going into significant depth(to the extent that it is actually possibly) be helpful for him? He continuously pushed themes which seems to lend into the idea that such conferences are as much a chance to go public and sell policies as they are to be transparent and inclusive.
    Also, without pulling out my notes from psci206, the budget process begins with the president putting together a budget and Congress tearing it up yes? So how far will Obama’s “openness to working with Congress” go in this respect?
    Oh, and the second he made that ocean liner reference I literally cringed..

  7. Chuck Todd, this morning, says Obama was uncomfortable with the teleprompter in the back of the room. The old teleprompters let you look left and right as if you are talking to the audience, not starring over their heads. He adds that he asked about sacrafice because Bush didn’t after 9/11. (And Kennedy did ask too in his inaugural.)

    Shocked, shocked that so little on foreighn policy. What a difference 1 year makes.

    I think he ended much stronger than he ended…this is going to require long term persistance and not a quick solution. In spite of the awful questions by the press, I think Obama got his message across.

    Biggest disappointment: no discussion of how he is going to submit the new budget to Congress…to duck the filabuster in the Senate. After the conference, Axelrod said he was not prepared to discuss that at this time. Would have been good journalism to see the press corps home in on this one. And a good civics lesson as well.

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