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.