early and often

Obama’s Press Conference Barely Newsworthy, Anyway

If you missed President Obama’s televised press conference last night, don’t worry, it won’t be too hard to catch up: Obama stressed that his budget — promoting health care, education, energy reform, and deficit reduction — is vital to restoring the economy. At one point, when CNN’s Ed Henry asked him why he didn’t express outrage about the AIG bonuses sooner, Obama shot back with a stern look, “Well, it took a couple of days because I like to know what I’m talking about before I speak.” And Obama called on some nontraditional news outlets, like Stars and Stripes, Ebony, and Univision, while ignoring the major newspapers. Of course, there was a whole hour of questions and answers, but really, not much else happened. Still, he’s the president, and he was on TV, in prime time, preempting American Idol, so it was a big deal. Here’s what everyone thought about his performance.

• Chuck Todd and friends say Obama’s presser “resembled a campaign TV ad — one in which the serious candidate talks directly to the camera,” and Obama kept returning to his “budget’s top priorities: education, energy, health care, reducing the deficit.” He asked for patience, even turning “a question on Middle East peace back into a defense of his first two months in the White House.” [First Read/MSNBC]

• Howard Kurtz notes that even though Obama called on nontraditional outlets and skipped the major newspapers, his “selection process last night did not result in softball inquiries.” In fact, he “faced far more aggressive questioning than in his first prime-time encounter with the media.” [WP]

• George Stephanopoulos gives Obama an A- on the night. He “hit his marks,” was able to return “throughout the hour to his core themes: he has an economic strategy; it’s starting to work; and with persistence it will pay off.” There were no mistakes, and there was no big news. [George’s Bottom Line/ABC News]

• Walter Shapiro claims Obama’s “boldest decision was to call on Jon Ward from the conservative Washington Times, but to ignore the Washington Post,” demonstrating that “he is ready for combat in the ideological zone.” [New Republic]

• Chris Cillizza didn’t think Obama handled the TelePrompTer well last night, making his opening remarks “shaky and uncertain as opposed to strong and commanding.” But he finished strongly, “taking a question on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and turning it into a forceful argument for why patience is a virtue in politics and policy. He was reasonable, thoughtful and convincing.” [Fix/WP]

• Michael Tomasky believes about half the questions were “off point, I would think, from the perspective of the White House PR shop.” But on the economic questions, “he did mostly get across the message he wanted to. He was most effective at the end, which is a good time to be at one’s most effective, since it’s what people will remember.” [Guardian UK]

• Stephen Stromberg was particularly struck by Obama’s “threats.” His “words were, frankly, scary. Obama needed them to be … And because an economic disaster has shaken the country, his warnings have a ring of plausibility they would never have had before the financial crisis hit.” [Post Partisan/WP]

• Ezra Klein can’t believe “there wasn’t a single question about the massive plan to risk a trillion dollars in taxpayer money to save the banking system.” [American Prospect]

• Jonah Goldberg gives Obama a B. “He didn’t hurt himself, but I don’t see how he helped himself,” and it was ultimately “unmemorable.” [Corner/National Review]

• Josh Marshall contends that while “[t]here was nothing particularly soaring about the answers or the exchanges,” the reason that “the White House keeps wanting to get Obama out in front of the cameras and on TV” is because “Obama has a ready and mainly unflappable command of the issues confronting the country, which I think people find reassuring in itself.” [TPM]

• John Dickerson says Obama “continued his role as national therapist,” calming the nation by arguing “that slow and steady progress was being made.” His sharp answer to Ed Henry showed that he “tires of people who want quick and easy answers.” [Slate]

• Marc Ambinder calls Obama “composed and self-disciplined. He resisted the urge to banter with reporters. He did not smile all that much. He allowed himself a moment of anger in response to Ed Henry’s badgering on the AIG bonuses.” And his main goal was convincing “the American people that passing his FY 2010 budget is necessary to fix the economy.” [Atlantic]

• Mike Madden thinks Obama “realized the occasion was mostly about talking directly to voters watching at home.” Though he “kept his cool” for most of the night, he became irritated that “reporters harped constantly on the deficit, practically ignoring Obama’s remarks on how he would spend federal money in order to ask him why he would spend so much of it.” [Salon]

• Craig Crawford writes that Obama’s barb at Ed Henry “probably served him well before the live audience, but it was not much of an answer,” since it’s unclear “if the President really did know what he was ‘talking about’ when he first spoke” on the AIG bonuses. “Still, give Obama credit for … accepting more follow-up questions than his immediate predecessor ever did.” [CQ Politics]

• David Ignatius says Obama was “smart, peppy and well-prepped in his prime-time economic presentation tonight — and persistent, too, wasn’t that the tag line?” [Post Partisan/WP]

• David Corn thinks “Obama sent a clear signal: I’m an establishment progressive, not an angry populist.” He struck a “well-crafted mix” between anger and demonization. [Mother Jones]

• Jennifer Rubin, remarking on Obama’s Ed Henry moment, says, “Understandably, he’s sensitive about a shabby display of non-leadership.” [Contentions/Commentary]

• Jonathan Capehart is disappointed that Obama didn’t “step off the red carpet in the East Room and talk to me like an adult about the economic mess, but to explain it to me in an ‘Economic Armageddon for Dummies’ kind of way.” Instead Obama stuck relentlessly to one purpose: “to marry his budget to the economic recovery and get it passed.” [Post Partisan/WP]

Related: Inside Obama’s Economic Brain Trust

Obama’s Press Conference Barely Newsworthy, Anyway