Formula for an Obama press conference: 13 questions
Wednesday's prime-time event had its unscripted moments, but the president has the format down to a science.
Barack Obama has these East Wing presidential press conferences down to a science: He makes TelePrompTer-assisted opening remarks and then calls on exactly 13 reporters. Some sneak in more than one question, but somehow after the 13th member of the Fourth Estate has had his or her moment in the spotlight – always the AP first, then a mix of print, TV, and a few alternative outlets – the hour is up.Skip to next paragraph
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This has been the pattern at the three such press conferences President Obama has held to date, most recently Wednesday night, which capped off his 100th day in office. Maybe it's the rhythm to the way Mr. Obama responds that adds up to 13 questions in the allotted time. He never answers (or dismisses) a question briskly, the way President Bush did at times. With Obama, there's always a windup, several minutes of professorial discourse, then maybe an answer. Or maybe not. Sometimes the reporter follows up with a nudge that gets him back on track toward an answer.
Headlines all over the map
So what does the country learn from these press conferences? There's always a headline at the end; there has to be. A quick scan of major online media Wednesday night showed a range of headlines, which means no one point stood out. Despite the swine-flu-all-the-time media frenzy of the early part of the week (at least until Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter defected to the Democratic Party), swine flu did not dominate the news conference.
The Los Angeles Times keyed off his opening remarks: "Obama returns to theme of hope on 100th day of presidency."
And FOXNews.com (whose broadcast outlet chose not to televise the press conference, though Fox on cable did) zeroed in on a theme dear to conservatives, the size of government: "Obama describes big-government solutions as unwanted, but necessary."
Another possible headline could have been "Obama aims for the middle in assessing first 100 days." OK, not so grabby. But he put out a fair amount of "not too hot, not too cold" rhetoric. He repeated a theme he had emphasized earlier in the day at a town hall meeting in St. Louis, where he essentially said, so far so good.