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Obama Presser: "Philosophy of Persistence"

RCP literally had a front row seat for tonight's presidential news conference. We'll have an extended analysis tomorrow, but here are some early thoughts and tidbits from the East Room.

  • AP, NBC, ABC, CBS, Univision, Stars & Stripes, CNN, Fox, Politico, ABC Radio, Washington Times, Agence France, and one other outlet got called on for questions, and several did ask follow up questions. But most notably, he did not call on the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, or Wall Street Journal - just to name a few major newspapers.
  • Biggest moments at first glance: defense of budget amid questions about debt; his talk of his "philosophy of persistence"; tough question about handling of AIG, and why there was a delay before he expressed outrage publicly; and a thoughtful discussion of his moral views on issues like stem cell research.
  • President Obama was not quite as forceful on the budget as might have been expected. He did promote it in his opening statement, and he stressed his view that his budget is making critical investments that will set the table for long term growth. But he was put on the defensive at times, specifically when asked about the national debt potentially doubling again as a result of his plan.
  • Two notes on style: first, the president did not use a standard teleprompter as he did for the first press conference. Instead, he read from a large TV monitor at the back of the room, instead of having a the two panels at his left and right on the podium.
  • Second, the president was noticeably more concise with his answers this time. At the his first presser, some answers were seven or eight minutes long, but this time most seemed to be in the four to five minute range. I believe the longest extended exchange was the one on the morality of stem cell research.
  • The only news in the opening statement came from a line that was not included in the excerpts. Without naming the company, he said that the AIG bonus mess was "another symptom of the culture that led us to this point." But he walked a fine line, criticizing specific culprits but saying that we can't "demonize" all investors who are trying to make a profit.
  • CNN's Ed Henry had probably the toughest question for the president, asking why it seemed that New York Atty. Gen Andrew Cuomo seemed to be getting more results on the AIG bonus mess than the White House, and furthermore why it took him days to express public outrage. Obama reacted sternly, saying: "It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak."
  • Some of the questions from niche or targeted media: defense spending and procurement; homelessness problem; and the rising threat of violence because of the drug trade.
  • Also, an interesting question about whether Obama felt his race has played a role in his administration thus far. It spurred his only real joke: that all the feelings of euphoria and history from the inauguration were gone after just one day.
  • After press secretary Robert Gibbs had announced "last question," it was clear that Obama took a bit more of a final lap as he answered a question about how a new Israeli government might factor into the peace process. He spoke more generally about how he is "a big believer in persistence," and listed some specific examples of instances in his early administration where some have second guessed his decisions. And notably, after not facing any questions about Geithner's fate or his handling of the job so far, Obama brought him up specifically. He said some questioned whether he'd ever come up with a plan to fix the financial markets weeks ago, but that he did this week.