Press Conference: Minor Notes

Press Conference: Minor Notes

I saw Obama’s press conference, and I thought it was quite good, in a sober, unremarkable way. I just wanted to note two minor points that struck me

First, everyone who asked a question had the chance to ask a follow-up. I don’t have the heart to go back and look at Bush’s old press conferences, but I don’t remember his allowing reporters to ask follow-up questions; in fact, if I recall correctly, he sometimes got annoyed when people tried. This matters, of course, since while a President can just refuse to answer a question twice, it’s a lot more obvious when he does so. Allowing follow-up questions makes it harder for a President to be flatly unresponsive, and this is a very good thing.

Second, you might have noted a question from Fox that began:

“QUESTION: Good evening, Mr. President. Thank you. Taking this economic debate a bit globally, senior Chinese officials have publicly expressed an interest in an international currency. This is described by Chinese specialists as a sign that they are less confident than they used to be in the value and the reliability of the U.S. dollar. European countries have resisted your calls to spend more on economic stimulus.”

Obama didn’t answer this bit in his initial response, so the Fox reporter followed up:

“QUESTION: Is there a need for a global currency?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I don’t believe that there’s a need for a global currency.”

If you’ve been read Steve’s earlier post on Michele Bachmann, you might recall that she asked a similar question in the hearings today:

“Bachmann: Would you categorically renounce the United States moving away from the dollar and going to a global currency as suggested this morning by China and also by Russia. Mr. Secretary?

Geithner: I would, yes.

Bachmann: And the Federal Reserve Chair?

Bernanke: I would also.”

You might be wondering: what is this global currency business? As best I can tell, this is what Fox and Bachmann are talking about:

“China’s call for a new international reserve currency may signal its concern at the dollar’s weakness and ambitions for a leadership role at next week’s Group of 20 summit, economists said.”

Of course, their question wouldn’t make sense even if China and Russia had called for the adoption of a new global currency. If they did, we’d just answer ‘no’, and that would be the end of it. But that’s not what Russia, China, and “Khazakistan” called for. Somehow, Michele Bachmann and the Fox reporter seem to have missed that little word ‘reserve’. Calling for a new reserve currency is not remotely the same as calling for the US or any other country to abandon the dollar and adopt something else as its currency. It’s just saying: maybe countries should consider holding their reserves in a different currency.

You can almost hear them thinking: currency, reserve currency: what’s the difference? Sigh.