Parsing the Press Conference (Abbreviated Version)

I was not able to live blog Obama’s third press conference because my son’s track meet ran long (he ran fast, however!).  I’m hoping many of you saw it, and can pass along your reactions in the comments section.  I listened to the first 10 minutes on radio, and saw the remainder on the NBC feed.  I thought it was his best performance to date (ok the handwashing advice was a bit much), in part because the reporters (for the most part – what was Jeff Zeleney thinking?) asked substantive questions.   Obama handled them deftly – his responses were substantively on target, and when he had to dance – as with the “did the previous administration sanction torture?” question – he did so in a way that did not cause a huge controversy but made it clear where he stood.  I thought both questions on the torture memoranda issue were spot on, and that Obama gave the best answers he possibly could without creating more controversy and without revealing classified information. Obviously he can’t know – nor can we – if he was in a similar position as Bush whether he would sanction the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques/torture” – no one can unless they are in that position.  But he went as far as he could in making the case for why he didn’t think these techniques were necessary, and for defending the decision to release some but not all of the relevant memoranda.  Will it satisfy those on the Right and the Left?  Probably not. But I think middle American will accept his answers for now.

In what seems to be a recurring pattern, Chuck Todd again asked the most useless question, since it practically guaranteed the answer that Obama gave regarding control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, which is, “I’m not going to speculate.”  At some point Chuck needs to go back to polling and leave the journalism to someone else.

Obama did well in nonanswering the Iraq timetable question (“steady as she goes – I’ll listen to my commanders, etc”).   He also was spot on, I thought, in dealing with abortion, immigration and bipartisanship and the Republican party – all potential landmines that he skirted in reasonable, if somewhat, longwinded fashion.

Under the current press conference format, once the president makes his opening statement, his goal is to get through the rest of the conference without setting off any landmines or creating controversy.  That’s about all one can hope for, and I thought Obama did it well, in his best performance in one of these exercises to date.

I’m interested in your reactions, if you get the chance to add some comments.

Meanwhile, I’ll try to respond to some of your queries regarding Specter, and clarify my reasoning why I don’t think his voting record will markedly change, in tomorrow’s blog.

One comment

  1. I found Obama’s press conference to be troubling, enchanting, surprising, and humbling. Seriously, though, what was the point of the NY Times reporter’s question? One would think he would have wanted to take full advantage of the chance to ask the president a serious question — instead of one that lends itself to fluff. On the other hand, I thought Obama masterfully (and comically) navegated this four part query. Well done!

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