Trust Jake Tapper to ask the tough question

At his press conferences, the president’s indignant tone conveys the impression that he’s a petulant college student, accustomed to professorial praise. He’s defensive and combative even when the White House press corps goes easy on him — and, for most of today’s presser, they did. The president was able to spout all his usual “pass the buck” propaganda, once again casting blame for the ailing economy on international events and a gridlocked Congress. He was able to tout his American Jobs Act as the answer to the country’s jobs crisis (taking care to issue the caveat, “If the American Jobs Act passes, we’re still going to face challenges”).

But trusty Jake Tapper interrupted the repetitive and dull conference with the live-wire question that should have been uppermost in the minds of all the reporters in the room.

“As you’re watching the Solyndra and Fast and Furious controversies play out, I wonder if it gives you any pause about any of the decision-making going on in your administration,” Tapper said. “Are you worried at all about how your administration is running?”

Shorter BHO answer: “No. It’s my administration, so why would I be worried about it?”

What he actually said was this:

With respect to Solyndra and Fast and Furious, I’ve been very clear that I have complete confidence in Attorney General Holder and how he holds his office. He has been very aggressive in going after gun-running and cash transactions that are going to these transnational drug cartels in Mexico. There’s been a lot of cooperation between Mexico and the United States on this front. He’s indicated that he was not aware of what was happening in Fast and Furious. Certainly, I was not, and I think both he and I would have been very unhappy if someone had suggested that guns were allowed to pass through that could have been prevented by the United States of America. He has assigned an inspector general to look into how this has happened and I have complete confidence in him and I’ve got complete confidence in the process to figure out who exactly was responsible for that decision and how it got made.

Solyndra — this is a loan-guarantee program that predates me and historically has support from Democrats and Republicans, as well. It’s a pretty straightforward idea: If we are going to be able to compete in the 21st century, then we’ve got to dominate cutting-edge technologies, we’ve got to dominate cutting-edge manufacturing. Clean energy is part of that package of technologies of the future that have to be based here in the United States if we’re going to be able to succeed. … We knew from the start that the loan-guarantee program was going to entail some risk. If it was a risk-free proposition, then we wouldn’t have to worry about it. … There were going to be some companies that did not work out — Solyndra was one of them — but the process by which the decision was made was on the merits. It was straightforward, and of course there were going to be debates internally when you’re dealing with something as complicated as this, but I have confidence that the decisions were made based on what would be good for the American people and the American economy.

His answer speaks for itself: The president is unwilling to take responsibility for any problem in the nation right now even those confined completely to his administration. (Also, can’t help but note the “cooperation with Mexico” comment. That’s not what the Mexican AG says.)

Perhaps touched off by Tapper, subsequent questions seemed a little tougher. Notably, WaPo’s David Nakamura asked a follow-up question about Solyndra — and CBS’ Bill Plante brilliantly exposed the president’s Trumanesque blame-a-do-nothing-Congress reelection campaign strategy, asking, “Are you willing to negotiate? Will you?”

The president was dismissive of both — but, thanks to the quality of the questions, the dismissals were glaring, at least. The guy might have a free pass when he gives speeches to friendly audiences across the country — but he shouldn’t get one at a news conference.