President Obama Sunday was slow pitched a series of softballs from White House reporters, allowing him to swing for the bleachers with his version of the truth while easily evading sticky issues.
I like and respect most of my colleagues in the White House press corps. But they can do a lot better than this. The press conference was a case study in why so many people think the press is irretrievably in love with Obama.
Let’s start with CNN’s Dan Lothian. He wanted to know from Obama, essentially, whether Republican were just idiots, or if they were in fact big idiots.
Last night at the Republican debate, some of the hopefuls — they hope to get your job — they defended the practice of waterboarding, which is a practice that you banned in 2009. Herman Cain said, “I don’t see that as torture.” Michelle Bachmann said that it’s “very effective.” So I’m wondering if you think that they’re uninformed, out of touch, or irresponsible?
Obama seemed delighted.
That’s a multiple-choice question, isn’t it?
Next batter up was Norah O’Donnell of CBS, who offered Obama an opportunity to swat away Mitt Romney’s accusation that Obama is soft on Iran.
If I could get you to respond to something that Mitt Romney said. He said your biggest foreign policy failure is Iran. He said that if you are reelected Iran will have a nuclear weapon. Is Mitt Romney wrong?
Julianna Goldman of Bloomberg wanted to know if Republican “rhetoric or posturing” was interfering with Obama’s Asia policy.
In conversations that you’ve had over the past couple of days with Asia Pacific leaders, have any of them brought up the rhetoric that we’re seeing from Republican presidential candidates when it comes to China? And does that kind of rhetoric or posturing jeopardize the progress that your administration has made with China and the Asia Pacific region as a whole?
Laura Meckler of the Wall Street Journal wasted a rare opportunity to question the president with an inquiry about Hawaiian shirts.
Why did you get rid of the aloha shirts and the grass skirts? (Laughter.) Are you at all concerned that it not appear that you’re having a party over here while so many people are living with such a tough economy? And I’m wondering if those perceptions were at all on your mind as you were making plans for this trip, which, by necessity, takes you to some pretty exotic and fun locations.
And Chuck Todd of NBC detracted from his serious question to Obama about the deficit super committee with a second query that amounted to a tepid request for Obama to “clarify” his inadvertently broadcast remark to French President Nicolas Sarkozy concerning Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
And then, can you clarify your end of the “hot mic” conversation with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, as it involved Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu?
Obama refused to answer. The correct question, one that might have forced an response, would have have been a direct demand: “Do you think Netanyahu is unpleasant and wearying to deal with, as you told Sarkozy?”
To be fair, I’ve heard each of these reporters ask tough questions at the White House in the past. Not this time. And the inclusion of so many gentle requests in a single press conference is remarkable.
Most members of the Washington press corps wonder why they are criticized for going easy on Obama or even favoring him.
This is why.