Remember when the White House press corps would complain when George W. Bush would go a few weeks between press conferences? Today Barack Obama will hold his first presser in three months. The last time Obama held a press conference, the administration was still bragging about economic recovery in a quarter that turned out to have a 1.9% annualized GDP growth rate, and claimed that the intervention in Libya would last “days, not weeks.” Dominique Strauss-Kahn was busy rescuing Europe rather than terrorizing hotel maids and sitting in house arrest in Manhattan. On the other hand, Osama bin Laden was still alive, so it’s at least a little bit of a wash.
Politico gives a preview of what might be on the minds of reporters at today’s 11:15 ET press conference:
One central question looms as Obama faces the media in the East Room on Wednesday, and one for which he isn’t likely to offer a concrete answer: Will Obama accept any debt ceiling deal with Republicans that doesn’t include some kind of tax increase on the wealthy?
Besides the fast-approaching showdown on the debt ceiling, the Obama-starved White House press corps also is likely to press the president — a constitutional lawyer – for a more detailed explanation of why the War Powers Act shouldn’t apply to his limited and divisive Libya intervention. Many Republicans and Democrats have insisted that it should.
Another intriguing line of inquiry: How does Obama, a champion of a cleaner and more transparent political process, feel about criticism from good-government advocates that he engaged in a legal, but arguably unseemly, outreach to woo big Democratic donors at a briefing session in the White House residence sponsored by the Democratic National Committee?
The hailstorm of questions on these and other topics will take place against a changing backdrop: The last time Obama met the press, there wasn’t a single declared GOP candidate for president. Now there’s a swarm, and every one of them is blaming him for everything that ails the U.S. economy — and the rest of America’s problems as well.
Obama probably decided to hold the presser to spin the budget and debt-ceiling negotiations and press the Republicans to return to the table in Joe Biden’s efforts to reach a compromise. Expect most of his opening statement to focus on those issues, on which poll after poll shows Obama at his weakest standing ever with voters. But I’m hoping an enterprising reporter or two will ask about Project Gunwalker/Operation Fast and Furious to get the President on the record with a denial. Who will it be? ABC’s Jake Tapper might ask that question, or perhaps Ed Henry in his new Fox gig. Let’s hope that the opportunity doesn’t pass.