Politics & Policy

Pressing Obama, &c.

The president during a press conference in 2009

Allow me to draw attention to a dog not barking: President Obama almost never gives press conferences. Now, that’s not the end of the world, as far as I’m concerned. But I have memories of previous administrations . . .

During the eight years of Reagan, the press often slammed the president for not holding more press conferences. And I remember him as being in the East Room, during prime time, quite a lot. Helen Thomas, Sam Donaldson, Bill Curtis — they’d all try their hardest to trip him up.

#ad#I have a memory of Clinton, too: After the Lewinsky scandal broke, the press simply could not question the president. He would not appear before them. Oh, once in a while, he’d show up with a foreign leader at his side. That way, it would be uncouth to ask him about perjury, subornation of perjury, blue dresses, and all the rest of it.

George W. Bush? He too, as I recall, was knocked for not holding more press conferences. But he “met the press” a fair amount.

Have you heard the press complain about Barack Obama’s lack of availability? I have, a little. But not much. Remember this the next time there’s a Republican president — there will come a time, won’t there? — and the press complains they don’t get enough chances to grill the top guy.

‐Early on, President Obama held a press conference. The New York Times reporter asked what had most “enchanted” him about the presidency during his first hundred days.

I thought, “It’s gonna be a long four years. Or eight.”

‐One of the things I most appreciate Obama for is what he said at his first White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner: “Most of you covered me. All of you voted for me.”

‐The Associated Press had an article that began, “Israel’s major allies in the West are working hard to talk it out of a unilateral military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities . . .” I’m thinking, “Major allies, plural?”

The article also said, “The West is appealing to Israel’s self-interest . . .” Reminded me of one of Obama’s most ignorant, most condescending, most arrogant, and most disgusting moments: when he said that Israel had to “engage in serious self-reflection.”

As though Israelis were not self-reflective enough. True, not every citizen of Israel has written two memoirs about himself. But, collectively, you won’t find a more self-reflecting, soul-searching, hand-wringing people.

Finally, the AP quoted Britain’s Nick Clegg: “Of course I worry that there will be a military conflict and that certain countries might seek to take matters into their own hands.”

Uh-huh. Iran has taken matters into its own hands by threatening to annihilate Israel. Israel counts on itself for its defense. In whose hands, exactly, should the Jews of Israel leave their survival? How has that worked out for them, historically?

You can at least understand the country’s anxiety, right?

This report, I found both startling and sobering:

Last year was the deadliest on record for civilians in the Afghan war . . .

Taliban-affiliated militants were responsible for more than three-quarters of the civilian deaths in 2011 . . .

That, I confess, I would not have guessed in the autumn of 2001.

‐Puzzle this out with me: “President Barack Obama has spent time with around 25 wealthy donors who paid $35,800 each to talk with him behind closed doors at a Washington hotel.” I am quoting a news article, here.

 

Thirty-five grand, I would well understand. Or 40 grand. Or even $36,000 or $35,500. But $35,800? It seems so . . . specific, doesn’t it?

UPDATE: Ah! The maximum allowed by law. The deal (as I understand it) is, 5 grand to Obama, $30,800 to the DNC. I bet for $35,700, though, you can wave hello. 

‐So, the Obamas will hold a state dinner for Britain’s Camerons in March. For the first two years or so of his presidency, Obama put some frost in the “special relationship.” This did not sit well with the American public at large. I have a feeling that Obama is running for reelection — that is, I don’t think the upcoming state dinner is irrelevant to the presidential reelection effort.

But maybe that is absurdly cynical . . .

‐“Two glamorous young couples!” press coverage of the dinner will say.

‐The governments of Brazil and Cuba are very, very tight — socialist brethren, in a way. Therefore it surprised me when Brazil granted an entry visa to Yoani Sanchez, the dissident blogger.

Not to worry, though: The Cuban Communists have denied her an exit visa — again. So all is well in the Latin American leftist world. (For a news story, go here.)

‐On the streets of Manhattan over the weekend, a young man with a clipboard stopped me and said, “Would you like to support women’s rights today?” Turned out he was with, or clipboarding for, Planned Parenthood.

Amazing that people associate Planned Parenthood with women’s rights. “Women’s rights” used to mean something — but that was a long time ago, at least in America.

#page#‐Throughout the life of this column — which began in March 2001 — I have lamented the term “African-American,” which I think is divisive, separatist, ahistorical, inaccurate, and wrong. (Other than that, I’m great with it.)

See what you make of this story, published on Saturday: “Some blacks insist: ‘I’m not African-American.’” An excerpt:

“I prefer to be called black,” said Shawn Smith, an accountant from Houston. “How I really feel is, I’m American.”

“I don’t like African-American. It denotes something else to me than who I am,” said Smith, whose parents are from Mississippi and North Carolina. “I can’t recall any of them telling me anything about Africa. They told me a whole lot about where they grew up in Macomb County and Shelby, N.C.”

#ad#Exactly. As Condi Rice remarked to me, many years ago, blacks are part and parcel of this country. Have been for 400 years. Moreover (she pointed out), “black” is parallel to “white.” Some people say “European-American,” to go with “African-American,” which is all the more nauseating.

Also, Tom Sowell has pointed out to me that the average black family in America has been here longer than the average white family. So who, really, needs a hyphen?

To hell with it. At least that’s what I think . . .

‐They had a presidential election in Finland on Sunday, and I read an article about it the day before. Go here. One of the candidates, the article explained, was a gay Green whose partner is an Ecuadoran immigrant hairdresser. I thought, “How can he lose?”

But he did lose, the papers told us the next day. (Increasingly, we use “papers” metaphorically.)

I was reminded of a conversation I once had with a Norwegian friend of mine. We were talking about Barack Obama, who won the Nobel peace prize (given in Oslo) and is obviously a darling of Scandinavian political elites, and of European political elites more broadly.

“Think about it,” I said. “He’s basically a social democrat, he banished all things George W. Bush, and he’s black, to boot. He’s perfect.” My friend replied, “No, he could be gay. Then he’d be perfect.”

I said, “I stand corrected.”

‐Last November, we National Review cruisers went once again to Puerto Rico, where it’s so enjoyable to look at the iguanas. Fascinating creatures.

I was quite interested in this news story, whose opening line was, “Iguanas of Puerto Rico: Your days are numbered.” ’Scuse me? “The island’s government is announcing plans to kill as many of the reptiles as possible and export their meat in hopes of eradicating an imported species that has long vexed residents and entertained tourists.”

Ah — I’ve been looking through tourist’s eyes, and, yes, have been entertained.

‐I liked Gisele Bundchen’s leaked e-mail, pre-Super Bowl (published here). I loved its beginning: “My sweet friends and family.” And I got a kick out of this: “He and his team [i.e., husband Tom Brady and the New England Patriots] worked so hard to get to this point and now they need us more than ever to send them positive energy so they can fulfill their dream of winning this super bowl.”

This Super Bowl — because they have been in so many others, you see. Most teams would think in terms of “the Super Bowl.” “Our dreams of winning the Super Bowl.” But for the accomplished Patriots, it’s this particular one.

(N.B. Am writing before the Super Bowl — minutes before. So about the outcome, I can’t comment, not just now.)

‐A little language? I liked an expression I heard on a plane the other day — we had landed and taxied, but were having to pause before finally reaching the gate: “We’re holding short here.”

‐In a column the other week, I mentioned the Secret Service, and said what a shame it was that its initials had to be “SS.” (I’ve long felt the same about Social Security.) A reader writes, “My father was a Secret Service agent for many years, and is now retired. Gift-giving occasions always include items with the logo on them. Generally they go by ‘USSS.’”

Excellent.

‐Finally, you know how some people are known by their first name, only? Newt. Cher. Plato (!). Well, some are known only by their last name. A few days ago, I had occasion to check an index and saw “Garibaldi, Giuseppe.” I thought, “Huh: All these years, and I had never known Garibaldi’s first name.”

Anyway, Happy Monday — and I hope your team won yesterday. (When Detroit’s not in it, I can maintain a cool disinterest. Usually.)

 

#JAYBOOK#

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