What did the media think about last night's big media event -- the second primetime press conference with President Barack Obama? Well, first and foremost, the media did a great job. Just ask the media! Because they'll tell you! At the same time, the media is also quick to point out that the press conference was "totally boring!" Well, that's certainly a strange coincidence!
But bored they were! Here's how Peter Baker and Adam Nagourney -- who were hoping for either the "conversational president who warmly engaged Americans in talks across the country," or the "jaunty and jokey" Obama from The Tonight Show -- described last night's total buzzkill:
Instead, in his second prime-time news conference from the White House, it was Barack Obama the lecturer, a familiar character from early in the campaign. Placid and unsmiling, he was the professor in chief, offering familiar arguments in long paragraphs -- often introduced with the phrase, "as I said before" -- sounding like the teacher speaking in the stillness of a classroom where students are restlessly waiting for the ring of the bell.
Or, as Chuck Todd put it:
More than anything else, Obama's news conference last night resembled a campaign TV ad -- one in which the serious candidate talks directly to the camera (although this one went on for nearly an hour, and it sometimes was interrupted by tough questions from the press). Indeed, how many times did we hear Obama mention his budget's top priorities: education, energy, health care, reducing the deficit?
Indeed, HOW MANY TIMES DID OBAMA TALK ABOUT THE BUDGET? Jesus, it was almost as if he kept getting questions about the budget. In fact, it was ALMOST AS IF Jennifer Loven, Jake Tapper, Ed Henry, Chip Reid, and Chuck Todd himself asked a bunch of questions about spending and budgets! Was it like a "campaign TV ad?" Hmmm. I wonder if that's because Obama spent a lot of time, on the campaign trail, patiently explaining his budget priorities, amid approximately a million billion questions about "HOW WILL YOU PAY FOR THESE THINGS?"
Yes. It's the repetition of perennial questions -- questions whose answers, offered long ago, were so satisfying to voters that they voted in accordance with their satisfaction -- that BORED, thunderously. Though Ed Henry's exciting twist -- coupling his boring question with an invitation to get emasculated on live teevee -- did blow up the Twitterverse for a while. (Henry was a "trending topic" last night on Twitter, just ahead of "The Biggest Loser.")
If you look at the breakdown, a pattern emerges: the "traditional" media outlets brought the repetitive, dull, blunt force trauma, and the smaller, less-called-upon outfits provided the evening's flavor:
Associated Press: Spending and budgets.
MSNBC: Spending and budgets, masquerading as a question on "sacrifice."
ABC News: Spending and budgets.
CBS News: Spending and budgets.
CNN: AIG bonuses, spending and budgets, invitation to publicly crush Ed Henry's balls, like so many seedless grapes.
FOX NEWS: Sino-Russo currency conspiracy theories.
UNIVISION: Violence in Mexico.
STARS AND STRIPES: Spending and budgets, but specifically related to care for veterans.
POLITICO: Charitable donation taxes.
ABC RADIO: Race.
WASHINGTON TIMES: Stem cell research, scientific ethics.
AGENCE FRANCE PRESS: Israel/Palestinian peace process.
What's really amazing about this is that credible reporters, like the Washington Post's Lori Montgomery, actually believe there is public "outrage" over Obama's spending/budget plans, despite the clear absence of evidence to support this claim. So, you just know the media is going to keep right on asking the same question about spending and budgets, forever and ever, into the void of senseless infinity.
Meanwhile, note the startling absence of many pressing topics from last night's presser. Nothing on Iraq. Nothing on terrorism. Nothing on the sweeping changes set to come to Afghanistan policy. One foreign policy question, in total. Nothing about pending appointments. Nothing about the Employee Free Choice Act. And ... oh ... what's that you say, Ezra Klein of the American Prospect?
I managed to miss it, but the transcript suggests that there wasn't a single question about the massive plan to risk a trillion dollars in taxpayer money to save the banking system.
OH, YEAH. I heard something about that whole banking plan from somebody this week, I think!
So there you have it. Your press corps, boring themselves silly asking questions that you aren't interested in, and awarding themselves medals for doing so.