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Jacob Heilbrunn

Jacob Heilbrunn

Posted April 29, 2009 | 09:19 PM (EST)

State of Play: Obama's 100 Day Press Conference


In his press conference Wednesday, Barack Obama only really came alive when he recounted his exasperation at the "bickering" that continues to consume Washington. Why can't there be a "timeout," he wondered?

No such luck. For the past few months, the Republicans have resembled the First Family's new dog, Bo--chewing at President Obama's feet and acting a little crazy. But that is simply testament to Obama's unflappability, which is, more than anything else, driving the GOP nuts. Obama didn't score any slam dunks tonight, but he was poised, confident, and humorous. Above all, he exudes competence--a determination to attend to the nuts and bolts of government rather than engage in grandstanding about new crusades.

Obama's common sense, for example, shone through in his response about immigration when he dismissed the notion of simply terrorizing immigrants by launching raids. He pointed out that its the companies that employ them that should be the true targets of investigations. Obama indicated some flexibility as well on the state secrets controversy, arguing that his administration had only been in office a week before it had to tackle the question before the courts.

Throughout, Obama emphasized the welter of problems that confront him. That will only wash for a few more months. The questions in Obama's next press conference will be more pointed--and he won't be able to get away with some of the ambiguous statements that he made about the economy tonight, particularly in response to Andre Showell of BET. Sure, a rising economy will help impoverished areas of America. But it probably won't be enough. Obama didn't want to get pigeonholed as catering to African-American areas of the country, but he shouldn't let it deter him from directing any needed special assistance, either.

After eight years of a president who could barely form a coherent thought or sentence, however, Obama's press conferences are soothing. He's mastered the art of calming the jangled nerves of his countrymen. Now his economic policies need to restore them fully.