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Tag Archives: Obama press conferences

Obama Gets Peevish at His Press Conference

This is really breaking my heart. President Obama got all upset when asked Wednesday at his press conference by Major Garrett of CBS News why he was “content” to leave U.S. hostages in Iran as part of the nuclear deal.

Major later admitted that he was trying to get under Obama’s skin a bit, which is what a reporter should do in order to elicit an unscripted response. Amazingly, for asking a direct question, even some of Major’s colleagues are apparently calling him disrespectful, like CNN’s Dana Bash.

Here’s the exchange:

GARRETT: As you well know, there are four Americans in Iran — three held on trumped-up charges, according to your administration; one, whereabouts unknown. Can you tell the country, sir, why you are content, with all the fanfare around this deal, to leave the conscience of this nation and the strength of this nation unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans?

OBAMA: The notion that I am content as I celebrate with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails — Major, that’s nonsense, and you should know better. I’ve met with the families of some of those folks. Nobody is content. And our diplomats and our teams are working diligently to try to get them out.

Obama is obviously sensitive about the topic, as he should be. Can you really negotiate a “deal” with another country that is holding your citizens hostage? It was certainly another sign of our desperation and perhaps contributed to the lousy deal we got.

That’s why Obama chose to understand “content” as in “happy and satisfied” when obviously Major meant it in the sense of “accepting a situation.”

As in, I, Keith Koffler, am content not to be a professional football player, even though I’m not happy and satisfied about it.

Obama’s Iran Deal Nonsense

I actually think President Obama convinces himself that most of the things he is saying are true, and even, wise.

That they are neither doesn’t make him a liar, nor even a fool. It makes him an egoist completely convinced that things are right merely because he does or says them. And, being an egoist, he wants to have the presidency he has always dreamed of, which includes things like spreading the wealth around from those who have earned it to those who haven’t. And not fighting wars, which he was always told were things greedy capitalists and Republicans like to do, not crusaders for social justice like himself.

And so, never having been serious about attacking Iran, he started negotiations with the Iranians in a very bad position, since attacking Iran was his ace in the hole. Having conveyed to the Iranians that he had taken his best card and thrown it in the garbage, he let them take him to the cleaners, even though they weren’t even playing with a full deck.

At a White House press conference today, Obama repeatedly defended his Iran deal by challenging skeptics to say what else they would have done. As if there were no other options than the surrender he had arranged. The answer to this is of course very simple, and was expressed by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu during his address to Congress: Get a better deal.

Obama press conference

Obama specifically addressed this with his usual straw man approach, saying that a better deal could only mean eliminating Iran’s nuclear program, which he asserts no one in their right mind believes Iran would ever do. Which begs the question: Why, then, was that the original intent of the Iran negotiations?

How about a deal that severely limits their program, unlike this one. How about one that allows the anytime/anywhere inspections were were promised?

HOW ABOUT ONE THAT DOESN’T END IN 15 YEARS?

With a nice, large-gauge figurative gun pointed at their heads, the Iranians might just have decided they could accept a very limited nuclear program, or none at all.

And if not, we had to be prepared to go ahead with an attack, which Obama was not. Unless maybe by leading from behind, so far behind that nobody would want to be in front.

I’m currently reading a biography of Julius Caeser. Quite a good one – Caesar: Life of a Colossus, by Adrian Goldsworthy.

The barbaric lengths the Romans went to during that time to preserve and expand their empire were bracing. Thousands of hostages from defeated tribes, captives sold into slavery, killing of men, women, and children, burning of villages – all to the convey the idea that the Romans weren’t to be messed with.

This was standard practice of the time and accepted by everyone as doing what was necessary to maintain and strengthen Roman civilization. It wasn’t even surprising to Rome’s enemies, who frequently did such things to each other.

Of course, I wouldn’t want us to return to anything like that. And I think we should use our military sparingly. But there are times when, if we are going to maintain our civilization, we have to evince a sliver of Roman toughness. We need to look at the world with a steely, unforgiving eye that recognizes that many of our foes are still living in barbaric times, thinking barbaric thoughts. And that they want to attack us, because they simply hate us and want to advance their own rotten civilizations.

white house Iran flag

Iran’s leaders are never going to be reformed, as Obama hopes. And with the victory he has given them, they won’t soon be overthrown either. In 15 years they be off to the atomic races, developing nuclear weapons while their neighbors – no less barbaric, most of them – start developing their own as a countermeasure. And this grave, existential threat to the world will arise because in the moment of truth, our civilization stood down from what had to be done.

Obama is right that military force is no guarantee that Iran won’t develop a nuclear weapon. Unfortunately, the deal he has struck is a guarantee that they will.

Israel is an older civilization, with a longer memory. They understand the type of people they are dealing with, because they’ve been dealing with them for millennia. They get that 15 years is nothing in the long history of a civilization as old as Persia. Unfortunately, they may have to act alone. But, I believe, they will act, because they have to.

And whose side exactly will Obama be on when they do?

White House Dossier Readers Stand Up

Without any doubt in my mind, the suggestions you had for questions to Obama outclassed those asked by the “professionals” at the White House press conference Thursday. Your questions represented what’s on the minds of average people and sought to hold the president to account, two things sorely lacking in the questions that were actually asked.

Here’s a few of the best. I’ve edited a couple of them down a bit.

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Frank:

Why does my health care premium now cost me more than my mortgage, when you said it would go down by $2500? No, the rebate doesn’t come close to covering the price increase.

Shofar: 

Mr. President,

Given the state of affairs in the Middle East, with the closure of US embassies within that region, do you still support the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that has had direct ties to terrorist organizations?

As a follow up, how do you think it possible that a two-state solution of the manufactured concept of a Palestinian people can work, given the extremist attitudes by a majority of the Palestinian leaders?

Keith Lehman: 

When is Eric Holder going to be held accountable for the ‘Fast-N-Furious’ gun-running program, and why is he still the US Attorney General?

Since you believe in ‘distribution of wealth’ and ‘distribution of income’ – when I am going to get my share in order to secure a mortgage for the home I am presently renting?

AFVet: 

Why do you feel it necessary to lock down any access to your records? What are you afraid of ?

judybeth: 

Q: How many millions of dollars have you and your family spent of the ‘struggling’ under/unemployed tax-payers’ on vacations since you took office?

Q: Do you think you and future presidents should pay for their own vacations, along with limiting the number golf outings per month, especially during a national and inter-national crisis?

Q: If you had to pay for your own vacations, would you limit the expenses to a mere $2 million, or less?

j.g.: 

Why is it that Congress can pass and force the implementation of laws for the citizens of this country but find it acceptable to exclude themselves from these laws, especially as it relates to the subsidies granted to Congressional members and their staffs.

CBader:

What considerations were made, as far as having the necessary amount of medical practioners, before you added 35 million more people to your bill? Also, at this late date, I still do not know, if undocumented aliens will be added to this plan.

JimK 

What were your exact movements and briefings on the day and night of Sep 11, 2012?

gracepmc:

As CIC did you give the Benghazi stand down order? If so, why? If not, who did? Did you authorize that power to issue a stand down order be given to that person?

Again, on the Middle East. You advocate the removal of Assad from power in Syria. Will you support the Syrian rebels? If so, which faction of the Syrian rebels do you support? Are you aware that AQ is infiltrating the Syrian rebels and are a faction thereof? Are you aware that by supporting the removal of Assad and supporting the Syrian rebels there is great potential for your position to be one of supporting AQ who is our sworn enemy?

And finally . . . 

Boo 

Since you are an avid viewer of Fox News, do you know how Megyn Kelly received Hannity’s time slot?

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Thank you all for your excellent and sometimes also entertaining ideas.

The White House Press Corps Falls Down

I was once crestfallen when I read a piece by someone – I forget who – expressing a basic truth about journalism, one that I felt I had no choice but to accept.

This person wrote that journalism, unlike many other pursuits by college educated individuals, is a trade, not a profession. Like being a plumber, a carpenter, or an electrician. Nothing wrong with those trades, it’s just after four years of college, a tradesman is not what most of our parents imagined they’d paid for.

Obama press conference 8-9-13 Obama takes a question at Friday’s press conference.
Photo by Keith Koffler

You see, a profession, like doctor, lawyer or engineer, generally requires years of training and knowledge of a very specific body of information. You need to know the law, you need to know the human body, and so forth. You can’t practice your profession unless you possess this knowledge.

Let’s face it, anybody can become a journalist, and these days anybody does. Even by traditional standards, the practice requires a limited amount of training, as well as an ability to write that can be managed by the tenth grade. Most journalists can’t even practice a basic skill, shorthand, that would seem to me imperative for fast and accurate quoting.

Journalists don’t need or get much relevant training, and yet they whine when their college buddies who have been rigorously schooled make so much more money than them.

Actually, when I think about it, being a good plumber, carpenter or electrician probably takes more training that it does to be a journalist. It’s really innate talent and hard work that separates the good journalists from the bad ones, not some kind of special knowledge.

I remember years ago I brought my sister, who is an attorney, into the White House to witness the briefing. And that was when the questions were tougher than today. Her judgement? It was nothing you wouldn’t see during an average cross examination by a regular, trained attorney.

Which brings me to Friday’s White House press conference, featuring the elite White House press corps.

I counted only one really good question. It was, not surprisingly, from Ed Henry of Fox News:

I want to ask you about two important dates that are coming up. October 1st you’ve got to implement your signature health care law. You recently decided on your own to delay a key part of that. And I wonder, if you pick and choose what parts of the law to implement, couldn’t your successor down the road pick and choose whether they’ll implement your law and keep it in place?

And on September 11th we’ll have the first anniversary of Benghazi. And you said on September 12th, “Make no mistake, we’ll bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.” Eleven months later, where are they, sir?

This was the only really strong attempt at accountability. Other questions seemed almost designed to help Obama out.

For example this one by CBS’s Major Garrett – who is capable of far tougher inquiry – on debate over the upcoming Federal Reserve Chairman appointment:

Are you annoyed by this sort of roiling debate? Do you find it any way unseemly? And do you believe this will be one of the most important — if not the most important — economic decisions you’ll make in the remainder of your presidency?

Or this one by Scott Horsley of NPR:

Part of the political logic behind immigration reform was the strong showing by Latino voters last November. That doesn’t seem to resonate with a lot of House Republicans who represent overwhelmingly white districts. What other political leverage can you bring to bear to help move a bill in the House?

Seriously. Maybe we might as well leave this stuff to Leno.

Local Press Grills Obama: Green or Red Chiles, Sir?

The Obama campaign insists President Obama is getting just as rough a going over from the local press types and entertainment outlets as he would from the White House press corps, from which he has stopped taking questions.

Now, this is certainly not the toughest group of presidential inquisitors that I have worked with in my years at the White House. But I submit to you that Obama is still on much safer ground talking to people who are used to covering townhouse fires and the latest alteration in the size of Kim Kardashian’s rear end.

The Republican National Committee has jumped into the fray with a recording of an actual interview Obama recently staged.

Obama is in town three days next week. The thinking among some in the White House press room is that given the recent uproar about him not taking questions from the White House Press corps – stirred by yours truly – and the lack of a White House press conference since March – his only of the year – he will stage a formal news conference next week.

H/T to Erika Johnsen at Hot Air, who ran the RNC video.

Will Obama Hold a Press Conference Thursday?

President Obama’s schedule Thursday is suspiciously empty, a possible sign that he will actually hold a press conference.

This would be a perfect moment to stage what would be only his second full, solo press conference of the year. He hates doing them, but there are many issues stirring that he may want to frame to his liking, and there’s nothing like a big White House bully pulpit to help him do it.

Obama’s announcement last week that he supports gay marriage was rolled out hastily following Vice President Biden’s decision to blurt out his own support. It’s sparked various conflagrations across the political spectrum, and Obama could use a press conference to try to douse some fires and maybe fuel some others.

The president has recently adopted the role of being serious about moving legislation through Congress this year, apparently coming to the conclusion his previously planned Do-Nothing Congress campaign could backfire into a perception that the country has a Do-Nothing President. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today actually commended Congress on some of the legislation it has passed this year. And so Obama could use a news conference to harangue Republicans about getting busy on the “To Do List” of items he has set out for them.

He’ll also want to respond to House Speaker John Boehner’s threat to block a debt ceiling increase unless Obama cuts spending.

And perhaps most crucially of all, with the Greek economy about to topple into the Aegean Sea and the G-8 ministers to gather in Washington Friday, Obama can use a presser to clarify U.S. positions ahead of what will be a crucial meeting for the world economy.

We should know by sometime tomorrow morning.

Obama Suggests Americans are Ignoramuses

President Obama Monday said in essence that Americans who disagree with his position that failing to raise the debt ceiling would be catastrophic are not paying attention to the facts.

Asked at the White House press conference by Chip Reid of CBS about a CBS poll showing 69 percent of respondents oppose raising the debt limit, Obama bristled with condescension.

Saying he wanted to “distinguish between professional politicians and the public at large,” Obama asserted:

“The public is not paying close attention to the ins and outs of how a Treasury option goes” – referring to the Treasury bills and notes by which the United States finances its debt.

“They shouldn’t,” he added. “They’re worrying about their family; they’re worrying about their jobs; they’re worrying about their neighborhood. They’ve got a lot of other things on their plate. We’re paid to worry about it.”

Why, in a representative democracy, shouldn’t the public be paying attention to the most important economic issue facing the nation and the critical debate going on in Washington about how to handle it? And why should people trust those in the political class who are “paid to worry about it” instead of themselves?

In my years covering the White House, I’ve heard presidents respond to lots of polls, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard one say people don’t know what they’re talking about. The traditional Answer Of Presidents is, “I don’t pay attention to polls, I just do what’s best for The Republic,” which of course is not true, but at least it’s not insulting.

Obama’s effort to soften the comment with the suggestion that Americans have more parochial concerns to worry about amounts to encouraging voters to abandon their civic duty, at least when it comes to federal issues. It’s like applauding people for watching the string of murders and fires on local news instead of checking out shows about national affairs.

The irony is that Obama himself, through the grassroots nature of his 2008 campaign, has proven the power of turning people at the local level on to national issues.

White House correspondents seek to better educate the public just before Obama's press conference entrance. Photo by Keith Koffler

No Questions Since April 5 for Obama

That’s what my friend Julie Mason over at POLITICO figured out and has shared with us all. Jules noticed that the openness president has stopped taking questions from the White House press corps, though White House Press Secretary Jay Carney promises, PROMISES he’ll do so soon. Obama not only takes fewer questions, he’s stamped out… Continue Reading