307 Days And Counting

That’s how long it’s been since President Obama last held a press conference:

Will Barack Obama go an entire year without holding a formal news conference? He’s getting close: The president’s last full-scale session with the press was on July 22, 2009, which was 307 days ago.

When Obama last held a big news conference, there had not yet been terrorist attacks at Fort Hood, Detroit, and Times Square. Scott Brown was an unknown Massachusetts state senator. There was no national health care bill, much less national health care law. Tiger Woods appeared to be a model family man.

A lot can happen in 307 days, which is far longer than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton ever went between news conferences.

In its defense, the White House says Obama answers a lot of questions from reporters, just not in the traditional news-conference setting. In fact, the president does a lot of one-on-one interviews, frequently with sympathetic reporters. But even in terms of brief question-and-answer sessions with the White House press corps, he has still done fewer than Bush or Clinton.

More troubling is that Obama makes no secret of his disdain for the press. Just look at the scene in the Oval Office May 18, when Obama invited a few journalists to watch him sign a new bill — it just happened to be the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act.

“Speaking of press freedom, could you answer a couple of questions on BP?” CBS’s Chip Reid asked Obama after the signing.

“You’re certainly free to ask them, Chip,” Obama said.

“Will you answer them?” Reid continued. “How about a question on Iran?”

“We won’t be answering — I’m not doing a press conference today,” Obama said. “But we’ll be seeing you guys during the course of this week. OK?”

And that was that. In the spirit of the day, Obama conceded that the press had the freedom to ask questions — he just didn’t have to answer them.

By contrast, the longest that President Bush went between press conferences was 214 days, from April 4th to November 4th, 2004. Moreover, since the Johnson Administration, Presidents have averaged between 5.76 (Reagan) and 35.62 (Bush 41) press conferences per year, which means Obama is on a pace to set the record for the least-frequent Presidential press conferences in modern history.

If the Obama Administration was actually living up to the promises of transparency made during the campaign, the fact that the President hasn’t subjected himself to the trial-by-fire of a prime time press conference in nearly a year might not be such a big deal. It isn’t doing that, however, and the Sestak stone-walling is only the most recent example of that lack of transparency. Instead, the Administration seems to have a disturbing preference for media events controlled to a degree that even Michael Deaver never dreamed of. One would hope that, at some point, the White House Press Corps would realize they’re being ignored.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Steve Plunk says:

    This president has proven himself to be a people person only as far as telling people what to do. He doesn’t like to be questioned and when he is he becomes confrontational. Sounds like a bully to me. An insecure bully not willing to engage in true intellectual debate.

    His crew is all about Chicago politics so don’t expect transparency. Those who believed that nonsense wanted to believe it.

  2. TangoMan says:

    It’s kind of sad to watch unrequited love play out before our eyes.

    The problem for Obama is how to get real-time answers scrolling on his TelePrompTer without there being a visible delay between when the reporter asks the questions and when Obama “answers” it. Until the conundrum is solved participating in press conferences is a risky venture for Obama, viz. “police acting ,” because the real Obama shows his face to the world that is more used to the scripted Obama.

  3. Vast Variety says:

    We either complain about him doing too many press conferences and make jokes about his teleprompter usage or we complain about him not doing enough… which is it supposed to be?

  4. IanY77 says:

    Exactly, VV. When Obama held PC’s, Republicans rolled their eyes, snapped their gum, and said, “Like, omigawd. Obama is, like, so boring.” Now he doesn’t hold PC’s, here come the complaints.

    http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200904290055

    http://patterico.com/2009/07/23/the-real-fail-of-the-obama-presser/

    http://mediamatters.org/research/200903250015

    I think that illustrates the difference between the left’s criticism of Bush and the right’s criticism of Obama. When we criticized Bush, there was a right thing to do, and a wrong thing to do. With the right and Obama, there’s no right answer. From the little things (like the “mom jeans” he wore out to the mound to throw out a pitch at the Nationals game, or big things (like government transparency), there’s simply no right answer. If he wears designer jeans, he an elitist, if he wears Walmart jeans, he’s unfashionable. If he hold press conferences, Rove, Kristol, and Hannity bitch, while if he doesn’t then Powerline, Hot Air, and RedState bitch. I don’t suppose that some consistantcy would be doable, would it?

  5. Ian,

    If Bush had gone an entire year without holding a single press conference I know exactly what “Media Matters” and the rest of you guys on the left would be saying.

  6. And for the record I’m not a fan of Bush to begin with, but the media’s double standard couldn’t be more obvious

  7. IanY77 says:

    Doug,

    I may not have explained that clearly. First off, you’re right that if Bush had gone that long without a PC, there would have been noise made about it by liberals. The point is that if Bush had held many PC’s, you wouldn’t hear liberals complaining about the President being too available to the media and the public.

    This issue is that when Obama holds PC’s, Republicans compain, and when Obama doesn’t hold PC’s, Republicans complain. There’s no right answer. And if there’s no right answer, then the criticism is not being made in anything resembling good faith.

  8. Juneau: says:

    Obama has just enough time for the “little people” as is absolutely necessary to sell his latest gimmick. The press, since he has been elected, are now little people as well, They are only acknowledged by him when he has to wipe the drool from their blubbery lips off of his shoes.

    Lapdogs and sycophants on the left, too many “disrespectful” little people on the right. What’s a guy to do…

  9. Wayne says:

    VV and Ian
    A Press Conference is where the President takes unscripted questions from the Press. A speech or a news conference where he doesn’t take questions is not considered a Press conference.

    Yes Obama has given way too many speeches, Prime time addressees and scripted softball interviews. IMO he seems to be in constant campaign mode. He busses in Union thugs and supporters for his so call town hall meetings while forces protester to be push out of sight.

    Those events are just propaganda pieces and have little resemblance to a Press conference. What is amazing is how terrible he does with unscripted events even when the MSM go so far out of their way to carry his water and give him softball questions. It is pretty bad when someone screws up and get upset with softball questions.