President Barack Obama's first presidential news conference was performed feebly by the once-ferocious White House press corps and shrewdly -- if deceptively -- by the president. In the six years I did communications on former President Ronald Reagan's White House staff, I don't recall a single news conference in which there were no follow-up questions, no challenges to anything the president had said recently, no assertions of fact that the president was challenged to deal with. In fact, I don't remember former President Bill Clinton, either, ever getting a full 45-minute prime-time news conference pass.
Yet Monday night, all the questions but one were of the "please, sir, could you tell us how you plan to deal with x?" variety. Only Major Garrett of Fox News raised even a slightly embarrassing question: What was Vice President Joe Biden referring to when he said the administration had a 30 percent chance of failing at some initiative? And I must confess that if I had been the vice president, I would not have been happy with the president's answer, which was, in essence: I don't know what Biden was talking about, but that sounds like him.
It can't be good that the president is making his vice president the public butt of his snickering after only three weeks in office. Not that it is Biden's fault. Along with a fair amount of blarney, Joe Biden also makes more honest and candid observations in an afternoon than many politicians make in a lifetime. One comes away from a conversation with Biden with at least one truthful nugget.
The same cannot be said for President Obama. Both Monday night and usually, the president offers his audience one of the finest verisimilitudes of sincerity and manly vigor this side of an old Laurence Olivier performance of "Henry V."
One has to listen closely to spot the straw men and general bunk that carefully -- indeed, it would seem, instinctively -- are laced into his answers. While he repeatedly said he was willing to negotiate with Republicans on the stimulus bill, he pointed out that some of them wanted to do nothing. Well, perhaps there may be a few who want to do nothing. But Republican leaders in both the House and the Senate are proposing their own very large stimulus packages that, using President Obama's economists' own methods, would create more jobs faster than Obama's version would. In fact, according to the study, it would create 6.2 million jobs, compared with the president's plan's 3-4 million.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.