Obama press conference: Meet the new speech, same as the old speech
posted at 1:40 pm on July 11, 2011 by Tina Korbe
I vaguely remember when folks criticized President Barack Obama for shirking press conferences. And at the time, in light of his campaign promises to lead the most transparent administration in U.S. history, ignoring the media did seem a little hypocritical. Now, after two presidential pressers in as many weeks, I’m nostalgic for the days when the president rarely spoke in such a public fashion.
To be sure, BHO sounds slicker than ever, reciting lines that resound to his own acclaim, lines that circumspectly and self-consciously seek to contribute to his mythical mature, cool, cerebral superiority. Here’s a sampling of some of his most self-congratulatory quotes from today’s conference:
I’ve been hearing from my Republican friends for quite some time that it is a moral imperative for us to tackle our debt and deficits in a meaningful way. … What I’ve said to them is, ‘Let’s go.’ …
I’m happy to consider all options, all alternatives. …
We keep on talking about this stuff and we have these high-minded pronouncements about how we’ve got to get control of the deficit and how we owe it to our children and grandchildren. … Well, let’s step up. … I’m prepared to take significant heat from my party to get something done. …
I do not want and I will not accept a deal in which I am asked to do nothing. …
But beneath his noble rhetoric lurk the same shameless excuses, the same evasion of blame, the same misleading suggestion that he has proposed solutions and Republicans have rejected them. After every presidential press conference, the president’s comments — what presumably ought to serve as a primary, reliable news source — require acute and rigorous fact-checking.
Today, for example, he again touted the stimulus, saying it did what the federal government designed it to do. That’s true only if the government designed it to be the gimmickry it turned out to be (as Ed explains in this post) — a series of extraordinarily expensive measures to create short-term incentives that aimed to convince Americans recovery had already arrived, when, in fact, it hadn’t.
Obama also spoke strongly against those who say default is not inevitable and dismissed entirely a question about any kind of contingency plan. He disparaged the American public’s majority disapproval of a debt limit increase, saying most Americans haven’t been following the debate closely. On the other hand, he said, his administration and other government leaders are “paid to worry about these things” (which, of course, sounds consistent with somebody who’d prefer a superior few to do all the central planning). He again mentioned stalled trade agreements and the potential lack of a renewal of the payroll tax cut as examples of congressional (a.k.a. Republican) obstructionism.
But perhaps no part of the press conference was as exasperating as the president’s emergent I’m-above-electoral-politics theme. When he tackled the controversial topic of taxes, he emphasized that he has proposed no tax increases until 2013. But he cast that proposal as a kind of favor to Republicans seeking reelection, as though he isn’t. When he addressed the timeline for a debt limit deal, he emphasized the importance of immediacy. “If not now, when?” he asked. “If we think it’s hard now, imagine how these guys are going to be thinking six months from now, when these guys are in the election season.” Again. Because the president isn’t in election season already.
Words, words, words. That’s all the president delivered today. Particularly when he speaks about the need for more revenues, I find myself really wishing he’d put his money where his mouth is. He says he couldn’t handle it if the debt limit deal didn’t require “best-selling authors” to do their part. Well, Mr. President, do it. Donate all that excess income you talked about today to the cause of deficit reduction. “President donates millions to deficit reduction” would make a heckuva better headline than, “Obama talks a big game, but does nothing.”