President-elect Barack Obama’s first press conference was distressing. Appearing on stage with a group of economic advisers standing behind him (including only one conservative), Obama’s opening statement, which he read, was expectedly smooth.
But in reporters’ questioning he appeared hesitant and unable to complete his thoughts. When challenged, he never answered a question about raising taxes on the rich but instead meandered aimlessly through a campaign talking point about tax cuts for the middle class.
There is only one chance to make a first impression and Obama’s first encounter with the press made a highly questionable one. Most of the press conference was boilerplate.
First, he was 22 minutes late. Naturally some would say that that is a minor point, but George Bush – and conservatives in general – always are punctual, while Bill Clinton was notoriously late. Lateness is a trait of liberals because they think only about themselves. So Obama is continuing in that vein.
You would have thought that he would have made sure to be on time for this first big public appearance. He wasn’t, and it was annoying for a national TV audience waiting to hear his comments. It set a low standard. Isn’t our economic crisis urgent? Does it not need immediate attention? What kind of signal does his tardiness send?
Obama said in his statement that he would keep “fully informed” about the economy as he approaches his inauguration. Yet we all can be “fully informed” by going on the internet or turning on the television. Obama then discussed “small businesses that are struggling to meet payrolls and finance holiday inventories.” These are the same small businesses he promised to tax more heavily, like Joe the Plumber’s dreamed-of small business.
Obama fell back on his talking points about “fuel efficient cars… clean energy, health care, education and tax relief for middle-class families” which we’ve heard before a thousand times. Why repeat it?
He also said he would “put aside partisanship.” Yet his choice of partisan Rahm Emmanuel as White House chief of staff is hardly reassuring.
Obama made some lame attempts at humor. He talked for far too long about the impending purchase of a dog for his daughters but assured the media that the dog would be hypoallergenic and not “a mutt like me”, referring to his biracial ancestry.
He then continued to pick reporters from a list on the lectern, hardly spontaneous and self-assured. How about pointing?
Obama then took a swipe at the late president Ronald Reagan and his widow Nancy Reagan, suggesting he might have “séances” with her in response to a question about whether he had consulted former presidents about the job. This was completely uncalled for and showed a lack of class and respect. Obama called Mrs. Reagan to apologize. This is an inauspicious start to his presidency.
When asked whether his children would attend public or private schools, Obama answered that his wife Michelle “will be scouting out some schools”, obviously skirting the question and the inevitable fact that his children will never attend the Washington DC public schools that Obama’s party and political philosophy support wholeheartedly… for other children, that is.
Obama stumbled repeatedly throughout the Q&A part of the press conference. It was a litany of “uhhh… um… uh… um…. uh… uhhh…” He seemed unable to think on his feet.
Obama defenders would say that he might have been nervous in his first outing. But that is nonsense. He has been in the public eye for more than a decade. Barack Obama has made his presence felt on three occasions since his election: In his unsmiling acceptance speech in Chicago; in the stock market plunge on two consecutive days after his election; and in this press conference which was oddly deflated.
If this is the beginning of the Obama presidency, it does not look good. The president-elect practically bolted from the room after 19 minutes, while he kept the national audience waiting 22 minutes for his arrival
You do the math.
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