Barack Obama Takes Over Your TV Week came to a conclusion last night with the President’s hourlong press conference. A few thoughts:
* A reasonably good round of questions from the press, with nothing as egregiously daffy as the Washington Post’s steroids inquiry from Obama’s first primetime presser. Well, I did think Ann Compton’s question on how race had affected Obama’s work came close, though apparently some folks liked it. (Was she expecting Obama to tell us he’d been unable to hail a cab?)
* The closest the exchanges came to getting really lively was in CNN’s Ed Henry’s question about AIG, a controversy that was still worth asking about, but I thought it was telling that Henry mainly framed it in the political-junkie terms of spin and perception: i.e., why did it take you so long to show your outrage? As for Obama’s final answer—”It took us a couple of days because I like to to know what I’m talking about before I speak”—the question in the post-conference analysis has been whether it was cranky or refreshingly blunt. I’m not sure the two are mutually exclusive.
* In the first conference, Obama made news by calling on a questioner from The Huffington Post. This time, he spread the love to the (editorially conservative) Washington Times, as well as military newspaper Stars & Stripes, Univision and Ebony magazine.
* Overall, it’s worth remembering that the answers to individual questions were less the point of the event than again pitching his plans—particularly his economic plans—to the home audience. A press conference like this is really just a primetime speech in Socratic, semi-improv form, and that’s necessary for any President who wants to be a persuader and not just a decider.
* Which is why I’ve never understood this sudden meme in the punditsphere that Obama is somehow communicating instead of governing, as though the two are not part of the same job. (Or as though—if Obama just spent an extra hour at his desk instead of going on Jay Leno—the economy would be fixed!) Even the generally sharp David Zurawik at the Baltimore Sun makes that argument: “is [he] really governing effectively — or spending most of his time on TV talking about governing?” If anyone wants to argue that Obama is governing ineffectively, or that his policies are wrongheaded, that’s fine; but the idea that going out and talking is somehow antithetical to governing, or a distraction from it, is an odd case to make for someone who studies the mass media. I mean we all know how Ronald Reagan hamstrung himself politically by running his mouth all the time, right?
* Then again—it’s been a while since I’ve repeated my tiresome disclaimer—I did vote for Obama, so consider the source. Anyone care to offer a rebuttal?
[Bonus question update: what topics were you surprised didn’t come up, and/or what questions do you wish were asked? Iraq? Afghanistan? The proposed bonus tax-clawback legislation?]