What We Learned from Obama's First Big Presser

The 44th president has concluded his first prime-time presser and I found myself marveling over two refreshing aspects of the affair. The first was that we were actually able to watch it. During the last few years of George W. Bush's tenure, it seemed as if he could dress up in a chicken suit and set himself afire and you couldn't get the press corps to show up and cover it. If we were lucky, it might show up on CSPAN 3 and the highlights would be clipped for the next day's Morning Joe or Fox and Friends.

The second impression I was left with is far easier to summarize; the man certainly loves to hear himself talk.

Previous residents of the Oval Office have been accused of dodging the issues, batting away uncomfortable subjects, and cutting off the flow of discourse. This presser was a rare example of dashing overboard in the opposite direction. Each question was met not with a short, defensive answer, but with a full-blown stump speech. Even Helen Thomas, a perpetual thorn in the side of every president since John Adams, was given an answer that eventually sent her back to her walker before she could force a follow-up. By my count, at least two of the president's answers ran longer than his prepared comments at the beginning of the event.

The meat we sought from this particular bone, however, was in short supply. The president was fresh from a town hall meeting in Indiana where he sought to buttress the defenses of the current economic stimulus plan. While the questions actually relating to the pending bill were few and far between, the answers were even less satisfying. I somehow managed to avoid throwing a shot glass through my television screen when the president delivered the following sage words:

Some of the criticisms really are with the basic idea that government should intervene at all in this moment of crisis. Now, you have some people, very sincere, who philosophically just think the government has no business interfering in the marketplace. And, in fact, there are several who've suggested that FDR was wrong to interfere back in the New Deal.