Is the president exposing himself often enough to serious hardball questions from real journalists? What would former President George W. Bush have done?
The denizens on the daytime woman's talk show The View thankfully didn't ask the boxers-or-briefs question that was put to President Clinton by a 17-year-old girl during an MTV town hall meeting in 1994. (The exchange is reported here by People Magazine.)
I can't say that they didn't think of asking him the underwear question; they might have thought better of it. Lord knows, they seemed to ask about everything else that shed little light during this supposedly "no holds barred" appearance by President Barack Obama. (The View's complete video of the "first live appearance by a sitting president on a daytime talk shoe is here.) Among the important subjects covered were Snooki, Lindsay and Chelsie.
And, of course, there was this ironic statement by Obama that he
shouldn't be spending all of his time campaigning--as if that's not what
he's been doing for the past year and a half.
Seriously, though, his appearance has unintentionally raised another
important question: His lack of full-blown press conferences where he
wouldn't face the kind of soft-ball, jejune questions that the ladies of The View mostly posed. Yes, he talked about race and the economy, but they were right out of his talking points. Nobody seriously challenged his propaganda.
Check out Jim Bowman's blog, Blithe Spirit, for his post, King of Trite
Obama's last full-blow press conference was in May, and the one before preceded it by 308 days. The biggest gap between full blown press conferences by the highly criticized former President George W. Bush was 204 days.
But that's too simplistic. When you expand the number of times that the two presidents faced reporters' questions outside of the full-blown formal format, they show "parity," according to historian Martha Joynt Kumar of Towson State University. So follows and compiles data on presidential appearances (how's that for a job?) and finds a certain degree of nuance in the numbers.
Kumar notes in an interesting and balanced article on Fox News ("Obama to Appear in Rare Press Conference," May 27, 2010) comparing the two president's styles of communication sheds some light on the issue:
She breaks down presidential exchanges with
the news media into four categories: primetime news conferences; news
conferences held alone or jointly alongside a foreign head of state;
brief Q-and-A sessions, which typically transpire in the Oval Office,
the Cabinet Room, or similar settings; and one-on-one interviews.
Adding up those four categories, Kumar finds
this president, through May 20, has faced reporters' questions on 280
occasions in the first 485 days of his term. That compares with 275 such
instances for George W. Bush, 454 for President Clinton, and 198 for
George H.W. Bush.
Here are the comparables for the two presidents as of May 20, 2010 as compiled by Kumar:
|President/Event||George HW Bush||Bill Clinton||George W. Bush||Barack Obama|
|Joint and Solo News Conferences||47 (12, 35)||57 (39, 18)||30 (25, 5)||32 (19, 13)|