Notable for two reasons, which we’ll address after the clip:
“I’m sorry, we’re doing a science fair — c’mon. C’mon.”
Granted, reporters can be obnoxious. They sometimes ask questions that seem inane and inappropriate for the moment, then decline to ask pressing, relevant questions when the moment demands it. But this particular journalist’s sin was asking an important question of the Commander in Chief at the tail end of an unrelated White House photo-op. The president’s response is pointed and peevish. He’s visibly angry that she exploited an opening to ask about reports that the United States is stepping up efforts to aid and train Syrian rebels. Disgusted, Obama scolds her for ‘going there’ by violating the sanctity of the photo-op with an inquiry about an unapproved topic. Which brings me to the promised analysis:
(1) According to Politico’s recent poll of the White House press corps, reporters gave the Obama administration low marks on accessibility and transparency. Asked how many times their news organization has been granted an exclusive interview with Obama, a majority respondents said ‘zero.’ Follow up: “How does that number compare to any past presidents you’ve covered?” Result: ‘Fewer’ outpaced ‘more’ by a 31-point margin. On the question of which recent administration has been more forthcoming with information with reporters, Team Bush topped Team O, 41 percent to five percent. That’s a striking number. In his first term, Obama held fewer press conferences than any president in the last 25 years. An intrepid correspondent might be forgiven, therefore, for taking a stab at an important question when an imperfect opportunity presented itself. Obama was having none of it, and decided to make an example of the transgressor. His antipathy was palpable.
(2) By the way, what is America’s Syria policy these days? And when was the last time President Obama answered a question about it? When we last covered the issue over at Townhall more than a month ago, the US government was looking into allegations that the Assad regime had once again crossed the chemical weapons “red line” — making a further mockery of last year’s half-baked, essentially accidental (and empirically failed) disarmament deal. A few weeks later, Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to confirm the worst:
Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Thursday that he has seen “raw data” indicating that the Syrian government has used chlorine gas as a chemical weapon in a “number of instances” in recent months. “There will be consequences” if evidence of new chemical use is confirmed, Kerry said, but “we’re not going to pin ourselves down to a precise date, time, manner of action.”
There will be consequences, but we won’t say when or how they’ll be meted out. Fearsome stuff. The problem, of course, is that the president already ‘pinned us down‘ on a military response to chemical weapons use. The so-called compromise that averted such an action required the Syrians to turn over all of their illegal weapons stockpiles along a strict timeline. They quite obviously haven’t fully complied; allegedly employing deadly gases again is an overtly brazen move. The regime apparently made the calculation that any potential downside of sticking a thumb in America’s eye was minimal, at least compared to the tactical value of poisoning the opposition en masse. It sounds as though the US is preparing to respond by training anti-Assad rebels (how thoroughly vetted will they be?), but that report is yet unconfirmed. Because “we’re doing a science fair. C’mon.” So don’t even think about asking about this.
That foreign policy pivot is going swimmingly so far.