Report Card: Obama, Press Both Do Well in Presidential News Conference

By Jennifer Parker

Mar 24, 2009 9:31pm

The president hit his marks tonight. So did the White House press corps. Confident as always, with crisper answers than his last prime time news conference, President Barack Obama returned throughout the hour to his core themes: he has an economic strategy; it’s starting to work; and with persistence it will pay off.  No mistakes. No big news.  Though the president did appear to concede that he won’t be getting everything he wants in his budget — even seeming to suggest that his middle class tax cut may not last beyond 2010. Just about all of the questions were pointed and challenging, and just about every journalist worked in a follow-up.  That’s new, and welcome. Surprisingly, not a single question tonight about Iraq or Afghanistan. When’s the last time that happened at a full-blown presidential press conference? On my report card, both the president and the press get an A- tonight. A few more observations: Stagecraft — The president had a new single screen teleprompter straight in front of him tonight (replacing his usual two screens flanking the podium).  It needs to be adjusted so that Obama isn’t forced to look down rather than right into the camera. Strokes — Obama continued his strategy of building up the non-traditional press. The reporter from America’s largest Hispanic network, Univision, was called on right after the broadcast networks, before the cables.  Ebony magazine got what may be its first question ever at a prime time press conference.  Stars and Stripes — the military newspaper — too.  And their questions — on Mexico, homelessness and the defense and veteran’s budgets — likely wouldn’t have been asked by anyone else. Fattest Pitch — NBC’s Chuck Todd’s question pressing Obama on why he hadn’t asked for more specific sacrifices from more Americans gave the president the chance to side with everyone out there who feels like they’re "sacrificing every day" in this economy. He came back to it again when talking about military families. Brushback — Why didn’t President Obama express outrage about AIG bonuses sooner, CNN’s Ed Henry asked.  Obama: "Because I like to know what I’m talking about before I speak."  Okay, then.  Freudian Slip — Passionately defending his proposal to shave tax deductions for wealthier Americans, Obama said "this WAS a good idea."  Quickly, he shifted back to the present tense. But Congress has made it clear that Obama was correct to refer to it in the past tense. What did you see? –George Stephanopoulos

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