THE PRESIDENT-ELECT FIELDS A FEW QUESTIONS…. A few days before the election, a reporter pressed Barack Obama on when the media could expect another press conference. Obama, half-joking, point to the day after the election.
As it turns out, he waited until three days after the election, but held a press conference in Chicago this afternoon. I took a bunch of notes, but soon after, noticed that Joe Klein’s write-up said most of what I’d planned to write anyway.
Well, if the presidential campaign didn’t convince you that Barack Obama is one disciplined fellow, his first public appearance as President-elect certainly should have. The press conference was notable for several things:
* he did not stray from or change a single position that he took during the course of the campaign. He emphasized his previous stated desire for the passage of a second stimulus package. He was very matter of fact and not very emotional when discussing the economic crisis. There was no “Don’t you worry, now…” component to his initial statement, which was a bit disconcerting — to me, at least.
* he was not lured into any speculative answers. He was properly cautious in response to the Ahmadinejad letter congratulating him on his victory and, by emphasizing his opposition to Iran’s nuclear program — and its support for terrorist groups — Obama conveyed a continuity appropriate for a President-elect.
* His answers were crisp and brief. The most expansive was his response to the puppy question. This presages a cool, businesslike presidency.
* No gaffes. Unlike Bill Clinton, who opened the door to the “gays in the military” question in his first press conference, Obama said nothing controversial, so far as I can tell.
* Unlike his immediate predecessor, he seemed completely in control.
I’d just add a couple of other random observations.
First, on the “dog question,” Obama talked about the dog he’d promised his daughters. Apparently, one of his daughters is allergic, so he talked in detail about the tongue-in-cheek weightiness of the family matter. Referencing shelter-dogs, Obama mentioned “mutts like me.” It was quite endearing.
Second, it wasn’t a “gaffe,” but Obama stumbled just a little when noting that he’d been in touch with all the presidents “who are alive.” When reporters chuckled a little, Obama joked he didn’t want anyone to think it was a “Nancy Reagan seance” kind of thing. People laughed, but I expect there will be Fox News reports and several hundred right-wing blog posts about Obama “attacking” Nancy Reagan at his first press conference.
And finally, I’d just add that it was an unusually pleasant experience watching a presidential press conference and a) noting that the person behind the podium seemed to know what he was talking about; and b) not feeling the strong urge to turn it off.