Obama Gives Speeches, Interviews But Few Press Conferences
There's a tug of war in every administration between the White House and the media that cover it. Reporters want more access and more quality time to question the president, while staffers want to control how the message plays. The two goals are quite often at odds.
At issue is whether the president has an obligation to take questions on a regular basis from the group of reporters that cover him daily. The reporters say yes. The White House says, well, we choose to do that differently.
President Obama has not held a full news conference at the White House since July 22, the night he said that the Cambridge Police "acted stupidly" in the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates.
Well. Being press-conference-averse and relying on speeches is nothing new for Obama. Obama would go radio silent on the campaign trail, notably when uncomfortable questions were on the lips of reporters.
We wrote this for American Thinker in June 2008:
Obama's strategy has been to orient the campaign around his greatest strength and advantage -- who could deliver the best speech -- and away from his greatest weakness -- his poor ability to answer questions about how he would deliver on any of its promises. [...]
Obama understands that the primary means of limiting the questions for which he would otherwise be forced to answer is to create a media environment in which those questions are not asked.
Liberals, including the media have repeatedly attacked President Bush for making himself unavailable to the media in press conferences and other Q&A formats. Yet as Howard Kurtz described back in January, the Obama campaign has been "unusually insulated":
One moment of absurdity came Tuesday, when reporters on the press bus were asked to dial into a conference call in which Obama announced a congressman's endorsement -- even though the candidate was nearby and just as easily could have delivered the news in person to the bus captives. Obama answered a few questions, but reporters are generally placed on mute after they speak so there can be no follow-up.
Obama learned the wisdom of this strategy, or rather the folly of its absence, when he made himself available to reporters to answer questions about his relationship with Antonin Rezko, who is currently on trial for corruption. Irritated with the questions and unable to satisfy persistent reporters, Obama cut the news conference short, walking out and proclaiming, "'Guys, I mean come on. I just answered like eight questions." Obama more recently went on a 10 day stretch in which he held no press conferences. Frustrated with the lack of availability, a reporter tried to break Obama's silence by asking a question while he was eating breakfast. Obama again deployed the "chagrin defense", this time somewhat fomously, "Why can't I just eat my waffle?"
Eating breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Putting yourself in position to get eaten by reporters falls much lower on the priority scale.