Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

April 30, 2009

OBAMA IS GETTING THE HANG OF THIS GIG.... Perhaps the most memorable moment of last night's White House press conference was the president's last answer. The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman noted, "You are currently the chief shareholder of a couple of very large mortgage giants. You are about to become the chief shareholder of a car company, probably two. I'm wondering, what kind of shareholder are you going to be?" Obama responded:

"Well, I think our first role should be shareholders that are looking to get out. You know, I don't want to run auto companies. I don't want to run banks. I've got two wars I've got to run already. I've got more than enough to do. So the sooner we can get out of that business, the better off we're going to be....

"I want to disabuse people of this notion that somehow we enjoy, you know, meddling in the private sector. If you could tell me right now that when I walked into this office, that the banks were humming; the auto were selling; and that all you had to worry about was Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, getting health care passed, figuring out how to deal with energy independence, deal with Iran and a pandemic flu, I would take that deal.

"And that's why I'm always amused when I hear these, you know, criticisms of 'Oh, you know, Obama wants to grow government.' No. I would love a nice, lean portfolio to deal with, but that's not the hand that's been dealt us."

I've seen some who've described this as a presidential "gripe." That's missing the point. Obama was responding to a question premised on the notion of expanded government power. The president wasn't complaining; he was describing what was already on his plate. In other words, this wasn't "woe is me"; this was "why on earth would anyone think I'd want to take over non-governmental enterprises right now?"

Obama's answer drew some laughter in the room, and it was that kind of event. The president, despite all the pressing crises, seemed ... loose. His reputation for being almost preternaturally calm is well-deserved. Obama's only been in office for 100 days, but he demonstrated last night that he's very much in command -- confident, knowledgeable, at times even reassuring.

David Gergen, a Republican pundit, said last night, "I thought in terms of mastery of issues, we've rarely had a president who is as well briefed and who speaks in articulate a way as this President does. He's nuanced, he's very complete, he's up to speed on the issues."

Note to the right: now would probably be a good time to give up on the whole "teleprompter" talking point.

I won't even try to recap the whole thing; if you missed it, the transcript is online. I'd note, however, that Obama's comments on torture were very interesting; his response to a good question about the state-secret privilege was important but largely unsatisfying; and the president tipped his hand a bit on health care -- in a good way.

But it was Jeff Zeleny's question that will probably generate the most attention: "During these first 100 days, what has surprised you the most about this office? Enchanted you the most from serving in this office? Humbled you the most? And troubled you the most?"

Obama literally wrote down the question, so as to not miss anything, and went one by one. I found the question rather silly, but the president's responses were quite compelling.

By the time he got to troubled, Obama said, "I'd say less troubled but, you know, sobered by the fact that change in Washington comes slow. That there is still a certain quotient of political posturing and bickering that takes place even when we're in the middle of really big crises. I would like to think that everybody would say, 'You know what, let's take a timeout on some of the political games, focus our attention for at least this year, and then we can start running for something next year.' And that hasn't happened as much as I would have liked."

Congressional Republicans? I think he's talking to you.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (45)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

I just want to know how he was able to give such a coherent answer without a teleprompter! He must have been given the questions before the press conference!

Posted by: chrenson on April 30, 2009 at 8:03 AM | PERMALINK

You know it is funny, but after 100 days of Obama I expect the president to be calm, cool and collected. I expect the president to be master of the press conference. I do have a vague recollection that past presidents have not always been so compelling. What was that guys name? Anybody remember his name?

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 30, 2009 at 8:08 AM | PERMALINK

I hope Ed Henry writes another op ed piece about how he came up with his question - essentially, are you paid enough now to know whether abortion is moral, and does it bother you that Notre Dame doesn't think you're worthy of giving a speech there?

Posted by: Danp on April 30, 2009 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

I hope Ed Henry writes another op ed piece about how he came up with his question - essentially, are you paid enough now to know whether abortion is moral, and does it bother you that Notre Dame doesn't think you're worthy of giving a speech there?

If Notre Dame didn't think he was worthy of giving a speech there, why would the University invite him to do just that, as they, in fact, have done? For the poster's sake, I hope he is ascribing the ignorance in that question to Mr. Henry.


Posted by: DJ on April 30, 2009 at 8:18 AM | PERMALINK

Not one Republican vote for the president's most recent enormous spending bill. Not one. Even Bush could peal off a few votes from the left. Clinton use to get some of the Republicans to turn.

I do believe that is evidence that this president isn't as persuasive as is being portrayed by the obedient media.

What comes next belongs entire to the president and the Democratic party. He can only blame Bush for so long and the 100 days are up.

Posted by: EB on April 30, 2009 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

"Note to the right: now would probably be a good time to give up on the whole "teleprompter" talking point."

Oh, they have. Today it's "quit whining about everything being Bush's fault." One GOP commentator in Politic's Arena even complained that Obama was complaining about 'having to much to do." I guess the nuance here is between having to much to do, like all presidents, and rising to the task and doing it, unlike, um, the last one, not that I'm blaming him for the state of our economy, position in the world and dismal moral standing.

But I am.

Posted by: Jeff In Ohio on April 30, 2009 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

Obama was masterful.

I have never seen any president like him in my lifetime and, frankly, probably never will again. (I'm 63.)

I didn't care for the enchanted, humbled, etc., question either, but I thought he skillfully managed to elevate it from trivial to informative/meaningful.

David Gergen irks me sometimes, but I'm happy to see his assessment corresponds with mine.

We Americans should rejoice in the realization that we have elected a very, very special man as president.

h

Posted by: h on April 30, 2009 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

I hope he is ascribing the ignorance in that question to Mr. Henry.

He most certainly is.

Posted by: Danp on April 30, 2009 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

Note to EB; Bullshit.

Obama is clearly a President of the American people. The ignorant Republican legislators are marching in lockstep, like lemmings, right off the cliff.

Posted by: Ken on April 30, 2009 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

Thank God the adults are in charge now.

Posted by: JJC on April 30, 2009 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

This Barack guy is pretty good. I think he has a future in politics. ;)

I do believe that is evidence that this president isn't as persuasive as is being portrayed by the obedient media.

No, it's evidence that your party now consists entirely of insane morons. And by the way, the voters have noticed that. Now go lie down next to the Whigs over here.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on April 30, 2009 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

congressional GOP to Obama: "Political games? that's how we roll!"

I think over time the President's very able performances at press conferences will reveal that many "top journalists" are really slimly informed gasbags. Over time this may have some interesting effects on things as the media continues to evolve in response to other economic forces.

Posted by: bdbd on April 30, 2009 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

Torture is a war crime. Obama didn't answer the question as to whether or not Bushit & Co. commited war crimes. I know why he dodged it but there is NO WAY to circumvent it. It's the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Omnipresent and will never go away until these criminals are prosecuted. This "vengence" angle is a smoke screen for the real question: Should we prosecute war Criminals. What is the difference between a Nazi being prosecuted for torture or a CheneyLite? A japanease grunt or a CIA grunt just "following orders"? Nauseating...

Posted by: stevio on April 30, 2009 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

Generally, I thought Obama did very well. However, I was trouble by his use of "legacy costs" as the problem for the auto industry. As we all know, legacy costs is the wall street shorthand for deferred compensation owed to workers in the form of pensions and retiree health. Its a legacy cost because it is not a current expense of business. Of course, wall street does not apply this term to bond debt and other kind of corporate lending because it is owed to wall street. The president should be more discerning. Obligations to employees should be treated at least as well as bond debt.

Posted by: steve on April 30, 2009 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

I do believe that is evidence that this president isn't as persuasive as is being portrayed by the obedient media...What comes next belongs entire to the president and the Democratic party.

You raise some good points. The GOP should really take advantage of this gaping fissure in Obaman credibility by emphasizing the difference between what he offers and what you offer. If I were you, I'd double down on talk of our world-class healthcare system, irresponsible homeowners, our nation of whiners, immigrant health issues, useless stimulus spending, bombing Iran, the meaninglessness of black votes, criminalizing abortion, keeping marriage traditional and the debt of gratitude we owe the wealthy for building this nation. Don't stop now. Press your points. Go for the jugular.

Posted by: shortstop on April 30, 2009 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

EB is giving us a good example of one of the latest GOP talking points: the fact that no Republicans are supporting Obama's agenda is somehow Obama's fault and demonstrates a failing on his part. Just like the obstructionism against Obama's appointments is also somehow also his fault.

Once again: Bullshit! Earlier Dem presidents were dealing with a Republican party that hadn't gone insane yet, that still had a notion of the national interest. What Obama is dealing with is the brain dead product of twenty years of right wing hate radio.

Posted by: Virginia on April 30, 2009 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

EB - start paying attention a bit more to what is actually happening. The 21st century Republican party has painted itself into the corner of irrelevancy. Your observation is so 20th century, and omits the facts on the ground; that Republicans are too partisan at this moment to even understand how to participate in our national discussions, debates and policy outcomes. We are going forward with consensus-driven solutions to the problems left by the last administration.

Oh, and EB, I've been a Republican since 1978 and the party of future hopes I joined then is now the Party of No! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 30, 2009 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

"Not one Republican vote for the president's most recent enormous spending bill. Not one. Even Bush could peal off a few votes from the left. Clinton use to get some of the Republicans to turn"

What everyone above said . Plus we are shocked , just shocked that the party of Rush, Beck and Hannity don't agree with the President. Where does the 60% approval figure into that asshats.

Posted by: John R on April 30, 2009 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

Ron Byers asks supra "Who was that man" - I believe he was the one Stephen Hayes has statues of whom enshrined on his mantle. Very funny scene watching Hayes on CNN's critique panel - Rollins was uncomfortable, as well, but, Hayes was cringing and constantly shaking his head in a negative mode. He would have fit better over at BillO with Dick Morris of "He didn't even call on Major Garrett", while BillO replied that the President is not very happy with FOX because of the tea parties. Bill is rapidly becoming the "Hoot Smalley" of TV. Next, he will come out with his lariat a'twirlin'.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 30, 2009 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

'Note to the right: now would probably be a good time to give up on the whole "teleprompter" talking point.'
Ha! Just when it's on the verge of working for them?

Posted by: hells littlest angel on April 30, 2009 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

Not one Republican vote for the president's most recent enormous spending bill. Not one. Even Bush could peal off a few votes from the left. Clinton use to get some of the Republicans to turn. I do believe that is evidence that this president isn't as persuasive as is being portrayed by the obedient media. What comes next belongs entire to the president and the Democratic party. He can only blame Bush for so long and the 100 days are up.
Posted by: EB on April 30, 2009 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK********************************************

EB (Empty Brain): Your party is polarized, repelling to the vast majority, and splintering. Your internal demands for party 'purity' and lock-step obedience to marching orders, your demands on message discipline, your solemn vow that "Repigs shall never speak ill of other Repigs", and your demands that party members put party ahead of country have destroyed you from within. Now, the 21% of you that are left are coalescing in unified opposition to a popular and very well liked President who was elected in a landslide and put into power (along with a Democratic Congress) to do the very things that they are doing. Sounds like YOUR problem, buddy, not the Dems. So whine all you want, but you made your bed while you abused your power over the last 8 years, now deal with it.

I also find it really amusing how you Repigs blamed Clinton for virtually every problem for the last 8 years ( and still do), yet you tell Obama that 'the 100 days are up'. You disingenuous, philistine hypocrite. YOU see, it's people like YOU that are diving away members and imploding your party from within. Nice work.

Posted by: In What Respect, Charlie? on April 30, 2009 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

Today it's "quit whining about everything being Bush's fault."

Who the hell are they to say anything about that? They spent the entire Bush term blaming everything on Clinton - hell one senator (DeMint?) pinned 9/11 on Clinton just a week or two ago.

Posted by: Joshua on April 30, 2009 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Bill Clinton could do it as well, just in different style.

But other than these two, nobody.

Posted by: Frank C. on April 30, 2009 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Bill Clinton could do it as well, just in different style.

Bill Clinton was a good orator, but his compassion never rang true to me, always felt a bit forced. Obama, by contrast, feels natural and in the moment. That's my read, anyway.

Posted by: dob on April 30, 2009 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

EB -- it's "peel" off votes, not "peal". I know Bush is a dumb-bell, but...

Posted by: T Paine on April 30, 2009 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

I found the question rather silly, but the president's responses were quite compelling.

Yeah, well said, that was something of a high point for me.

Low point was the "state secrets" thing. The unswer was worse than "unsatisfying." He thinks the act is "too broad" does he? He needed more time to plead the case, so ne needed to reuse the Bush arguments? Bush made an overly broad interpretation of a narrow act, and Obama made an overly broad interpretation of the Bush interpretation, and he apparently has lawyers who never heard of asking for a continuance.

Roll up your pants legs folks, because it's getting deep in here.

Posted by: Bill H on April 30, 2009 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Low point was the "state secrets" thing. The unswer was worse than "unsatisfying." He thinks the act is "too broad" does he? He needed more time to plead the case, so ne needed to reuse the Bush arguments? Bush made an overly broad interpretation of a narrow act, and Obama made an overly broad interpretation of the Bush interpretation, and he apparently has lawyers who never heard of asking for a continuance.

You think he had a chance to restaff the entire Justice Department in his first few weeks in office? I'm with you on the whole state secrets thing, but I'm also mindful of the fact that giant bureaucracies have inertia, and it does take time to reorient them, even when their staff weren't explicitly chosen to be hostile to the new direction.

Posted by: dob on April 30, 2009 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

steve I was trouble by his use of "legacy costs" as the problem for the auto industry. As we all know, legacy costs is the wall street shorthand for deferred compensation owed to workers in the form of pensions and retiree health.

I agree somewhat on the 'legacy cost' issue. But if Obama gets his health care proposals past Congress with a minimal of tinkering many of the legacy healthcare costs will be picked up by the new plan. A that massive burden on industry will be lessened (as it is in every other industrialized nation). I'm always amazed we don't see more business groups pushing for universal healthcare.

Posted by: thorin-1 on April 30, 2009 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, it was refreshing to hear an articulate, well versed President, although, I wish he would drop the got from have. But, far from the wilderness of Shrub and he doesn't use that canard "I feel your pain".

Posted by: berttheclock on April 30, 2009 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

David Gergen makes me long for some more reality-based Republicans. It's sad that it feels "refreshing" to have someone who holds differing views acknowledge the ways in which he believes Obama is doing a good job. (He made some other complimentary remarks on CNN's 100 days special as well).

Posted by: short fuse on April 30, 2009 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

I hope Zeleny is getting a talking-to from his bosses at the Times. That question was just ridiculous. It was an embarassment.

It was good for Obama in that it let him reel off some feel-good points that he wanted to make - he just had to find a way to jimmy the talking points into Zeleny's adjectives.

But it was completely free of substance. Zeleny should be writing theater reviews or something. Leave White House press conferences to people with real questions.

Posted by: TG Chicago on April 30, 2009 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

Blaming Obama for Republican intransigence is like saying that the formation of the Confederacy was Lincoln's fault.

Posted by: thalarctos on April 30, 2009 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Huge surprise, the elite media thinks Obama is delicious and enchanting. I'm going to puke.

Posted by: owlgore on April 30, 2009 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

I notice no one is calling Obama out on the fact that his answer to the shareholder question is at odds with his actions as president. His administration has refused to take back TARP funds from banks who wish to give it back. How he can reconcile that with the statement that he wants to be the kind of shareholder that is "looking to get out," I will leave to the lickspittles on the blog, but it is beyond my comprehension, and it is a sad sign that the press doesn't at least ask about the discrepancy.

Posted by: INTJ on April 30, 2009 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

"Who the hell are they to say anything about that? They spent the entire Bush term blaming everything on Clinton - hell one senator (DeMint?) pinned 9/11 on Clinton just a week or two ago." Posted by: Joshua

Of course, as the Left spent over 7 years complaining that Bush couldn't catch Bin Laden, it is somewhat appropriate to note that Clinton had him in his hands multiple times and refused to reel him in, since he was the guy that planned 9/11. Another example of "progressive" amnesia, one supposes.

Posted by: INTJ on April 30, 2009 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

And, for good measure, let's ask the Obamatons whether they want to blame Bush, or Reagan, for every problem they have with their little lives. Can't quite seem to make up their minds. But with all the neurons situated on one side of the brain....

Posted by: INTJ on April 30, 2009 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

We've had two Obama moments in the last week. The first was his speech to the National Academy of Science where he became completely incoherent and lost until they got his Teleprompter fixed. If he's getting a handle on things he doesn't seem to be able to show it without a Teleprompter to read from! And our second look was the press conference for his 1st 100 days. Obama looked ok, although when your toughest questions is "What has enchanted you most in your first 100 days in the White House", what does that show. The poodle press isn't doing Obama any favors unless, as is entirely possible, they won't just ooh and aah for the first 100 days, but intend to continue for 4 to 8 years. I keep thinking that sooner or later one of them is going to get board and ask a really tough questions. But then maybe not. However, if you wonder why the NYT is going out of business go listen to the question posed by the NYT reporter again? He might as well have asked "Mr. President Obama do you know how wonderful you are?, and how much the liberal press is in love with you? Its really that bad!

Posted by: valwayne on April 30, 2009 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

I'm actually happy to have a President that can at least READ the teleprompter - that last idiot had a teleprompter and still couldn't deliver a complete coherent sentence.

Posted by: Really? on April 30, 2009 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

President Obama makes me feel like Mr. Smith has finally gone to Washington.

Posted by: Liberalart76 on April 30, 2009 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

Do you know why the Catholic Church is so anti-abortion? For every abortion, there is one less future child for the priests to sodomize!!

Posted by: Robbie on April 30, 2009 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

valwayne, if using a teleprompter (as most politicians do) is Obama's biggest 'fault', I'll take that! BTW, I assume you meant "bored", instead of "board".

Posted by: Pam on April 30, 2009 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

Obama was elegant! And, I thought the surprised-humbled-enchanted-troubled question may have been the best of the night. It gave a look into the President's soul. He was most moved, I would say emotional, when he spoke about our soldiers -- choked up a bit. It shows he can make the tough decisions, but it breaks his heart to have to send boys to war. By far his best press conference.

Posted by: Debbieqd on April 30, 2009 at 9:27 PM | PERMALINK

Do you Libs actually listen to yourselves. You all still have that tingling sensation running up your leg like Chris Mathews. Mr Obama ran on he would have all the military out of Iraq in day 1. hmmmmm. talked about fiscal responsability, but just spent over $400.000 of our money on a photo shoot over NY. while terrified people called 911.swore he would take all lobbyist out of Washington. hires Holden who call Americans a bunch of cowards. Geitner who never paid his taxes, and than tried to hire Daschel, what did he forget to do? Than Obama bows to the King. apologizes to all our enemies.hires Napolitano to tell us our Northern border should be watched just as much as our Southern border, so not to offend the Mexican people. than say's our fighting military men and woman are easy targets for joining the malitia and being anti Government. say's this about our heroes coming back from wars. Obama say's all Mexico's weapons are coming from the USA, which is proven false. he won't take the tarp money back from the banks, gee I wonder why? he's ruining our children and grandchildrens future with all his spending. the list goes on and on, but it's only been 100 day's. it's funny how you never hear of this stuff in the liberal media. you can only blame Bush so long. I'm not a Bush fan but you libs are pathetic.

Posted by: Mark L on May 1, 2009 at 4:12 AM | PERMALINK

To DJ (about a quarter of the way down the list of comments). Does he really expect that Obama could reverse 8 years of political destruction by Bush in only 100 days. If so he must really think that Obama is supernaturally able. It takes very little time to destroy something, much longer to build it. If Obama is still in power in 8 years he will still be fixing the Bush legacy.

Posted by: William Hughes-Games on May 1, 2009 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

WHITE HOUSE INTERFERENCE

Chrysler and its rogue debt holders shouldnt give in to the Administrations bully pulpit.

http://pacificgatepost.blogspot.com/2009/05/dilettantes-at-chrysler-gate.html

Posted by: James Raider on May 3, 2009 at 12:19 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly