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Monday, August 29, 2016

The press conference scandal

by digby

“A campaign is as close as an adult can get to duplicating college life and Bush wasn’t just any old breezy frat brother with mediocre grades…He was proud of it. Gore elicited in us the childish urge to poke a stick in the eye of the smarty-pants. Bush elicited self-recognition.” 
“As he propped his rolled-up sleeves on the seat back in front of me, his body leaning into the conversation, he waggled his eyebrows up and down like Groucho Marx, mugging across the aisle. There were Dove bars and designer water on demand and a bathroom stocked like Martha Stewart’s guest suite. Dinner at seven featured lobster ravioli.” 
"Gore wanted the snacks to be environmentally and nutritionally correct, but somehow granola bars ended up giving way to Fruit Roll-Ups and the sandwiches came wrapped and looked long past their sell-by date. On a lucky day, someone would remember to buy supermarket doughnuts. By contrast, a typical day of food on Air Bush…consisted of five meals with access to a sixth, if you count grazing at a cocktail bar. Breakfast one was French toast, scrambled eggs, bacon… Reporter Margaret Carlson in her book "Anyone Can Grow Up: How George Bush and I Made It to the White House"
For the record, I think Hillary Clinton should do more press conferences. As a matter of fact, I think she should do them every single day, and she should let them on her plane and she should feed them Dove bars and lobster and hang around with them reading People Magazine and talking about the Real Housewives (the "girl version" of being George W. Bush) or whatever else will make them happy. It's not too much to ask.

As it happens President Obama angered the press with his lack of traditional access too:
Obama was stingy with newspaper interviews when he first came to the White House in 2009, but the well has nearly dried up since the 2010 midterm elections. He spoke with USA Today and the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk during the campaign last year and had an off-the-record talk (later made public) with the Des Moines Register’s editorial board in October.

Each of those interviews had strategic value. USA Today is a national paper with the second-largest circulation (after the Wall Street Journal). The Virginia and Iowa papers are in states that were critical to Obama’s reelection chances. (Despite the rare interviews, the Register endorsed Mitt Romney for president; the Pilot made no endorsement).

But most of the nation’s biggest papers, whose reporters cover the White House every day, have remained on the outside looking in. The Washington Post landed its last on-the-record meeting with the president nearly four years ago, as did the Wall Street Journal; the New York Times last got to him in the fall of 2010. The Boston Globe has never had an interview while Obama was in office, nor has the Los Angeles Times, according to the Nexis database and the newspapers. Even Obama’s hometown papers, the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, have been stiffed.

What’s more, despite a string of interviews with ethnic broadcasters, including Telemundo and Univision recently, Obama has never consented to an interview with any member of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, an organization consisting of 210 African-American-owned newspapers, said Robert W. Bogle, the organization’s former president. Obama and George W. Bush were the first presidents who haven’t done so since Franklin Roosevelt, notes Bogle, the chief executive of the Philadelphia Tribune.

The cold shoulder from the White House has led, predictably, to expressions of disappointment among newspaper journalists.
I don't know why these politicians refuse to do more press. It seems like it's just part of he job to me. But lets not pretend its all about about "getting information" ok?

Journalist Tim Fernholtz calls them chances for reporter showboating and doesn't think they're particularly illuminating. He also did something interesting. He went back to the last press conference with the political press corps (there have been more recent ones with black and Latino journalists which don't count apparently) to see what important questions were asked that couldn't have been asked in any other format.

“Do you think banning gun sales to people on the no-fly list would have prevented any of these massacres [including] San Bernardino?”

Is this a dumb question? Yes. US officials already said the perpetrators were not on any watch list the day before; Clinton had long endorsed preventing gun sales to people on the no-fly list.

Did Clinton answer it?
No. “I don’t know exactly what it would have or could have prevented.”

Did anyone follow up?

“Do you think the Fed is using the right criteria to assess the health of the job market? And is there anything else they should be doing? And are we ready for a rate increase?”

Is this a dumb question?
No. It’s an important one. Politicians don’t talk enough about the Federal Reserve.

Did Clinton answer it?
No. Most US politicians refuse to talk about the Fed, in a nod to the institution’s independence. Clinton is no different: “I’m not going to comment on their decision making.”

Did anyone follow up?

“[Are mass shootings] a mental health issue as well?”

Is this a dumb question. Yes.

Did Clinton answer it? Of course. “You’re absolutely right.”

Did anyone follow up?

“As a former secretary of state, are you confident enough in the system of checks and balances on that visa waiver program?”

Is this a dumb question? No. The potential for terrorists to take advantage of relaxed travel rules with friendly European countries is worrisome, and Clinton has relevant experience.

Did Clinton answer it?
Yes. “If you look at the kinds of crimes that were committed by this woman and her husband, or the 9/11 hijackers, visas are a problem,” she said. “And we have to look at that, see what we need to do to tighten up requirements, do better information-sharing with other countries.”

Did anyone follow up? No. But the Obama information would tighten the rules around visas the following month.

“Could you briefly summarize how you would pay for your proposal to create jobs in the country?”

Is this a dumb question? Yes.

Did Clinton answer it? No. “I can’t briefly summarize, but I will certainly send you a long list, and a lot of it is on my website.”

Did anyone follow up? No. It’s on her website.

“You mentioned combating ISIS online in your speech today. Have we become too sensitive to civil liberty arguments post-Snowden, given what we saw happened in [San Bernardino]?”

Is this a dumb question? No.

Did Clinton answer it? Kind of. She referred to the balancing act between liberty and security, before noting that terror groups “run multiple Twitter accounts… I don’t know that we would let that continue if we were dealing with a criminal network. Why should we let it continue if we’re dealing with a terrorist network?”

Did anyone follow up? No.

“Do you regret calling for gun control in the wake of the attack now knowing what you know about the terrorists?”

Is this a dumb question?
Yes. At that point, no new information had been revealed about how the terrorists had obtained their weapons.

Did Clinton answer it?
Yes. “Not at all. We don’t know how they got that arsenal inside their house.” Later, the public would learn the San Bernardino shooters used legally purchased AR-15 style rifles that they modified in violation of gun-safety laws.

Did anyone follow up? No.

“Madam secretary, do you still have confidence in the mayor in the city where you were born?”

Is this a dumb question? No. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, a longtime Clinton ally, was embroiled in a scandal around his handling of a young black man murdered by police.

Did Clinton answer it?
Yes. “I do.”

Did anyone follow up?

So really, she shouldn't avoid them and I frankly don't see why she does. Just do it, Hillary. It will be fine.