President Obama hasn’t held a news conference for two months. He also hasn’t answered any questions after photo sessions or sat down for an interview with any White House reporter. Many reporters expect him to practice a media version of basketball’s four-corner-stall and not have one before the election.
Team Obama is endlessly imaginative in coming up with excuses for why a president who promised transparency and openness in government is dodging the media.
This Sunday, when CNN’s Jim Acosta asked about the lack of news conferences, the answer from Stephanie Cutter, the Obama campaigns answer was, well, novel. “The president was talking to reporters on the ground in Iowa,” Cutter replied, and then threw out a zinger. “Do you think that that’s less important than talking to somebody like you?”
“Entertainment Tonight, People magazine, he did that as well,” countered Acosta. “Are they more important than the national news media?”
“I don’t think that they’re more important,” Cutter, said “but I think they’re equally important. I think that’s where a lot of Americans get their news. And I think the president’s going to continue doing that.”
Team Obama has good reason not to want to answer questions before a live, national TV audience. His vice president, Joe Biden, has been a source of countless flubs, flabs and gaffes. The torrent of Bidenisms has been such that there are rumors that through an intermediary he asked Hillary Clinton about replacing Biden. Then there’s Obamacare, which continues to bleed bad news of rising health-care costs and questions about how much patient treatment may be affected by its cuts in Medicare.
It’s no wonder the president prefers hanging out with local media, who toss him tough questions like which color of chili pepper he liked the most, which a local radio station in New Mexico did.
It’s not as if the last news conference Obama held with White House reporters was that illuminating. As Keith Koffler of White House Dossier notes, the Q&A session at the G20 summit held in Mexico in June featured just six questions, mostly on foreign policy.
Indeed, Obama even laughed off one politically sensitive question this way:
Q: Mr. President, can you tell us, if what the Colorado shooter did was entirely legal, how do you do more on this subject without any new laws?
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I’m sure we’ll have more opportunity to talk about this.
Q: This afternoon is fine. I’m available.
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks. I’ll ask Jay for your number. (Laughter.)
Don’t expect Obama to get back to any White House reporter before he faces the voters this fall. His communications strategy appears to be very simple: Catch me if you can, and you won’t.