Press-friendly (for a reason)

PRESS-FRIENDLY (FOR A REASON)…. The Washington Times reports that Barack Obama has held more press conferences, and answered more press questions, than any modern president-elect.

In the 22 days since winning the White House, President-elect Barack Obama has taken 22 questions from reporters and has done two sit-down television interviews.

The Democrat held his fourth press conference since Nov. 4 in Chicago Wednesday morning — his third in as many days — an unprecedented bit of access for reporters who have grown accustomed to President Bush’s infrequent moments taking questions and already surpassing the last four presidents-in-waiting.

Mr. Obama has beat his four predecessors in number of post-election, pre-inauguration press conferences, and is inheriting a more troubled nation than any of those men. With one Cabinet post officially named, he is working at a faster clip than former President Bill Clinton.

It wasn’t too long ago that reporters traveling with the Obama campaign publicly predicted that, if elected, Obama was likely to severely limit the media’s access. At least this week, he’s held three press conferences in three days, and chatted at some length with Barbara Walters.

But I can’t help but think the context matters here. Is the president-elect proving his commitment to transparency, openness, and media access? Maybe, but I kind of doubt it. I think it’s more likely Obama is filling a leadership void and trying to settle the financial markets and offer investors some reassurance about the future.

Consider the last six days. On Friday, the transition team deliberately leaked Geithner’s name for the express purpose of giving Wall Street a boost (it worked). On Saturday, Obama delivered a radio/YouTube address on a massive rescue/stimulus package. On Sunday, Obama aides fanned out on the morning shows to talk up the president-elect’s economic plan. On Monday, we were introduced to Obama’s economic team. On Tuesday, we were introduced to Obama’s budgetary team. On Wednesday, we learned about Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

One day, it’s Geithner and Summers. Another day, it’s Volcker. Another day, it’s Orszag. I can appreciate the criticism about Obama not having named a Labor Secretary yet, but I wonder if the transition team is just looking for an excuse to hold another economic-related press conference next week.

This isn’t complicated. Bush is irrelevant and Poulson lacks credibility. It’s a crisis, and Obama is filling a void. And at the risk of making a post hoc argument, consider the results — the Dow closed at 7,552 on Thursday. The next day, Obama’s full-court press began. The Dow has since gone up about 1,000 points. (I’m not arguing that Obama is single handedly responsible for improving the stock market, and I realize that a multitude of factors, some unpredictable, have produced the recent rally. I am suggesting, however, that Obama may have contributed some calm to the markets.)

MSNBC had a chyron this morning that read, “Obama will address economic woes today, Pres. Bush to pardon turkey.”

Sounds to me like the relevant players now realize their role.