White House press secretary Robert Gibbs is holding his very first White House press briefing as I write this. In just the past two days, President Obama has been inaugurated, signed significant executive orders (and here) on Guantanamo Bay, interrogation techniques, ethics reform, banning of all federal lobbying by his former staff while he is president, transparency on presidential records, and spoke to Middle East leaders.
So, what was the third question of the press conference, asked by new NBC chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd?
Well, Todd wanted to know whether Obama would be re-signing yesterday's executive orders given that he retook his oath of office last night, and that resulted in about a five minute back-and-forth about the retaking of the oath idiocy.
Come on, Chuck. What a tone-deaf way to start your White House stint. Just awful and hopefully not a sign of things to come.
I suppose you can reshuffle the networks' White House correspondents, but they will still ask the inane and irrelevant questions when there are some major developments that do, in fact, warrant serious scrutiny and questions.
Update (8:10 pm ET): Seems that HuffPo's Sam Stein shares the sentiment:
Robert Gibbs' first briefing as White House press secretary offered almost as much insight into the media as the newly installed administration.
...But the media also had another issue on its mind: why did Obama retake the Oath of Office if he thought the first go around -- with Chief Justice John Roberts' rhetorical flub -- was sufficient? Moreover, why was the event restricted only to the four members of the pool press and not the fourth estate at large?
A Democratic friend wrote to say that the White House Press Corps was not exactly acquitting itself well.
Update #2 (9:37 pm ET): Time's Joe Klein offers similar comments:
Just watched Robert Gibbs' first press conference--and yeeesh, it was ugly. A good part of this was the W.H. press corps perpetual, institutional instinct for the capillaries: a whole bunch of time wasted on Obama's retaking the oath of office; a whole bunch of questions looking for the bottom line on tangled policy issues that won't be resolved for months--the final status of the Guantanamo detainees, the pace of withdrawal from Iraq. A lot of it was first-day, tough-guy posturing on the part of a press corps that has been accused of being in the tank to Obama.
Update #3 (Friday, 2:19 pm ET): Day 2 isn't much better, at least based on Josh Marshall's note:
We're sitting here watching Robert Gibbs' White House briefing. And there is a long string of questions about whether Obama can really working in a bipartisan manner if no Republicans are saying nice things about the stimulus bill or voting for the mark-ups out of committee. And Chuck Todd just asked whether Obama would veto a stimulus bill that came to his desk that hadn't gotten Republican support.
Mark Nickolas is the Managing Editor of Political Base.