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« On Houses And Hannity | Blog Home Page | Obama Meets the Press »

Obama Press Conference -- First Thoughts

Some quick thoughts after leaving the East Room tonight after President Obama's first prime-time news conference:

  • The president took questions for more than 50 minutes after his opening statement. It's probably the longest extended Q&A he's had. During the transition he would take only three or four questions at press conferences, and during the campaign few more.
  • He called on the following news orgs: AP, Reuters, CBS, NBC, Bloomberg, ABC, CNN, the New York Times, Fox, the Washington Post, Helen Thomas, Huffington Post, and NPR - 13 questions.
  • The questions were aimed mostly at the stimulus or TARP (5 questions), foreign policy (3), bipartisanship and lessons learned (2), Joe Biden (1), Alex Rodriguez (1), investigating the Bush administration (1).
  • His early answers tended to be quite long, speeding things up as the press conference went on.
  • Theme: After spending the first two weeks of his presidency in Washington, DC, Obama clearly is seeking new momentum in the stimulus fight by returning to his Washington outsider roots. He mentioned the town of Elkhart at least a half dozen times to reinforce the idea that while Washington and the media focus on the Congressional sausage-making, ordinary Americans just want quick action.
  • Notable Quotes: Called this no "run of the mill recession." Says he did not come into office just to be able to spend a trillion dollars. Criticized Republicans who have even argued - as Mitch McConnell did on the Senate floor - that the New Deal policies did not work, saying they seem to be fighting battles "I thought were resolved a long time ago."
  • Balanced some of his attacks on Republicans by noting the "unprecedented" number of Republicans in his Cabinet, and said he hopes his overtures toward the GOP "will be reciprocated." Joked that perhaps he should have called for no tax cuts just to let Republicans take credit for them. Even hits fellow Democrats who have been "resistant to reform."
  • Obama said his benchmark for judging whether the stimulus plan was working would be whether it has created or saved 4 million jobs. That would seem an easy one for Republicans to use as ammunition if he fails to reach that target in two or four years, but it's also difficult to determine whether you have "saved" a job.
  • Is it just me or did he really throw his vice president under the bus? He claimed not to remember Biden saying there was a 30 percent chance the plan could fail, and couldn't say he knew what he meant. Even laughed as he answered the question.

In short, no major mistakes. He was able to stick largely on message, and wasn't thrown off his game.