Live-blogging: Barack Obama’s first news conference

I’m on All Things Considered tonight to talk about your reaction to Barack Obama’s first news conference. So, well, please have one, and post it below. The more insightful, the better your odds of being part of radio history.


1:31 p.m. – Again, Obama will be speaking on a set full of American flags. What does that mean? Are a dozen American flags more patriotic than one? We’re told there’s a delay in the start of the news conference.

The set is reminiscent of the set in Denver:


1:39 p.m. – A reader sends a quite-correct e-mail. Why are NPR announces referring to him as Mr. Obama? The correct way to identify him is still Senator Obama.

1:50 p.m. – Still waiting. “Clinton time” returns to Washington. A commenter asks what’s the seal above the sign on the podium?


1:51 p.m. – Robert Reich is on the podium. So is Robert Rubin and John Summers are there, too. It really is the Clinton administration.

We’re underway.

  1. Listen Featured Audio

We’ve lost 1.2 million jobs this year. Tens of millions of families are struggling to pay the bills. It’s an urgent reminder we’re facing the greatest economic challenge of our lifetime. Obama stresses the President Bush is still in charge.

1:54 p.m. He says he’ll take the issue “head on” after he becomes president. He calls for a plan for the middle class. An urgent priority is an extension of unemployment insurance benefits. A fiscal stimulus plan is long overdue. Also have to address spreading economic crisis — small businesses unable to meet payroll, and tax increases.

The auto industry is the backbone of American manufacturing. Would like to see the administration accelerate retooling of manufacturing. Wants transition team to work on additional measures for more fuel efficient cars.

Third, review of administration’s actions to make sure we’re not rewarding CEOs. Wants HUD to use authority it already has to help people stay in their homes.

Says he doesn’t underestimate the enormity of the task ahead. The choices we make will be difficult. It won’t be quick or easy to dig “ourselves out of the hole that we’re in. But America is a strong and resilient country and we will succeed if we put aside partisanship and politics.


Q: What can you do in the first 100 days?

A: We’ve taken some action so far, more will be needed. The transition team will be monitoring what happens. We are going to need a stimulus package passed before or after inauguration. Going to have to focus on jobs because it impacts consumer confidence. Will be important to provide assistance to state and local governments.

Q: Are you confident you can pass stimulus package

I want to see one sooner rather than later. If it doesn’t get done in lame duck session, it’ll be the first thing to get done as president of the United States.

Q: Have you responded to president of Iran’s congratulations?

A: I am aware the letter was sent. Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon is unacceptable.

Q: When you disagree with decisions President Bush makes, will you defer?

A; President Bush invited me to meet with him on Monday. I’m sure that in addition to taking the tour of the White House there will be a substantive conversation. I’m going to go in there with a spirit of bipartisanship and the understanding that the president and leaders of Congress understand the situation and want to get things done. There are differences, even among people of the same party. The critical tone that has to be struck is the American people need help, this economy is in bad shape, and we have just created one of the longest election cycles in recorded history. Now’s a good time to set politics aside and think practically about what’s needed.

Q: Do you need to move quickly to name treasury secretary and secretary of state?

A; When there’s an announcement to be made, we’ll make it. (Blog: Who might be in Obama’s cabinet)

Linda Wertheimer interrupts broadcast to tell us we’re listening to Barack Obama. It was when a local reporter asked about the governor naming a successor to Obama. That’s a concern outside the Beltway, so it’s not a concern of Linda’s.

Q: What kind of dog are you going to buy, and public/private school for daughters?

A: I’ve talked to former presidents and read Lincoln’s writings. Re: Dog.This is a major issue that’s generated more interest on our Web site than anything (Bob: Oh brother). One daughter is allergic to dogs so it has to be hypoallergenic, but our preference is it needs to be a shelter dog. A mutt… like me.

Schools: Michele will be scouting out some schools.

Q: What’s your view of American intelligence? Has anything you’ve heard given you pause about anything you’ve talked about on the campaign trail?

A: If there was something I heard, I couldn’t tell you. Our intelligence process can always improve; it has gotten better.

Q: Do you still intend to seek tax increases on upper-income Americans?

A: Restates campaign stump speech. “My priority is going to be, ‘how to grow the economy.'” Says he still thinks it’s the right plan but clearly leaves the door open to bag the tax increase.

Says that’s it and says “thanks a lot, guys.” And as long as we’re criticizing NPR for its incorrect use of language, I’ll admit that it drives me crazy when people refer to a group of people that includes women as “guys.”

There it is, what do you think?

Update 2:50 p.m. – My appearance on All Things Considered has been canceled because the comments aren’t up to what they want to hear and they’re not interested in my observations. But here is my observation. Are America’s newsrooms up to the challenge of covering a president they so obviously love? There’s a certain “teen dance” vibe I see when reporters watch Obama. After today’s news conference, Twitter, for example, was all, ummm… atwitter about the “mutt” comment and about how smooth Obama was and how fun he is to listen to. OK, I get that. But what about what he said in terms of substance? He didn’t offer much, but that crack in the door he presented on his economic plan is the kind of thing newsies would drive a truck through under the Bush administration.

There is a certain honeymoon with an incoming president, to be sure. But from the start, here, it’s not looking good for the willingness to ask — let alone later discuss — tough questions.

The sixth question at the first news conference asked of the new leader of the free world, on a day when the economic news was the worst yet…. was about a dog. It fairly boggles the mind.


3:10 p.m. This advisory just in from Washington:

LETTERS — Most listener comments about yesterday’s show were about one of the more SERIOUS stories: speculation about the Obama family dog! Robert Siegel and Michele Norris read from listeners e-mails. (02:15)

Most? Suddenly, our economic woes seem the least of the nation’s problems. And I’m reminded of how I fell in love one morning with a president because he went to the White House kitchen and toasted his own English muffin. Gerald Ford.

4:42 p.m. Just did my “rant” with Mary Lucia of the Current (I can still get on the radio somewhere!).

Reactions pouring in. OK, two three.

His rant about the press conference is right on the money. See if you can find a song about fake, superficial people, or people willingly being swindled. I’d suggest “Liar” by Rollins Band but Jill Riley played it last night.

Long-time Current fan, first time Bob Collins fan,

Dave (Last name withheld)

I listened to you talk about your rant today about the fawning press and the serious issues that we have going on in our country right now. I couldn’t agree with you more! Keep doing what you’re doing, we need people like you around.

Thanks for solid opinions. – Laura.

Opinions? Shhhhh. They’re “observations.”

Please let him know that there still are people out there who want smart news. That’s why I listen to 89.3 The Current!

I love what you all are doing there. Keep up the fantastic work.

– Deb

I feel consensus building. Not just any consensus, bipartisan consensus. How quickly can you all get through school and get jobs in journalism? I’m serious here: We’re surrounded by reporters asking questions about dogs and TV networks who send reporters out to report from places where nothing is happening, just to present the “feel” of them being “out there” and then electronically “beam them” back in the studio.

Whatever you think is wrong with the news media and news consumer appetite, seriously, it’s much worse. And there’s no Daily Show on Friday to get that point across tonight.

6:41 p.m.: From AP:

President-elect Obama has called Nancy Reagan to apologize for joking that she held seances in the White House. At a news conference Friday, Obama said he had spoken with all the living presidents. Then he smiled and said he didn’t want to get into a “Nancy Reagan thing” about doing seances. The former first lady had consulted with astrologers during her husband’s presidency. But she did not hold conversations with the dead.

Well, great, then. The news conference to apology ratio is now at 1:1.

  • Charles

    What is the seal above “The Office of the President Elect”?

  • Maureen

    I, too, have taken some offense at the reference to “Mr. Obama”. What is going on, NPR?

  • sheldon

    Multiple flags–they just make a pretty background. Better than the McCain green screen or McCain blue screen

  • Tara

    There are more important things to worry about than to be offended over him being called “Mr. Obama” or “Senator Obama.” It probably stems from confusion surrounding the tradition of “Mr. President.” He could also be called “Mr. President-elect,: It shouldn’t be offensive.

  • He seems very careful about making it clear that he is NOT the President, only the President-elect.

  • Gary L

    as Mr/Senator/Prez-elect Obama just said, he is NOT president until January 20th, 2009.

  • momkat

    It’s exciting to have such an elequant president-elect. I can’t remember the last time I was riveted by a press conference.

  • bsimon

    “The correct way to identify him is still Senator Obama.”

    President-Elect Obama is also acceptable.

  • Gary L

    I think its amazing that we will have a President that holds press conferences and answers questions with real responses in English. Even when he’s tired.

    English segue: Guys to refer to a group has been in general use for quite a long time my friend. My daughter (11) and her friends use it easily amongst themselves and no ‘guys’ are ever present.

  • Bob Collins

    // He could also be called “Mr. President-elect,: It shouldn’t be offensive.

    It’s not offensive… it’s merely incorrect. In public radio, we like talking about grammar. And I have a stack of hate mail to prove it. (g)

  • Gary L

    and the alternative to saying just “guys” is this…

  • MR

    Maybe president-elect Obama should start saying “y’all” like us real Americans.

  • Bob Collins

    So anyway, substance…. did anyone pick up the semi-backpedal possibility on tax increases on the rich?

  • sm

    He was thoughtful and deliberative and not flummoxed by the press. He said what he had to say, answered a few questions, and got off the stage. Good job.

    P.S. The term “guys” for anyone is fine with me… I use it all the time, and have for decades. It balanced his mostly serious tone with a human quality at the end, and showed he wasn’t spooked by the press.

  • Michelle

    There was some chatter before the conference about how Senator Obama waited 2 days after winning the election to have this press conference and that he may be hostile toward the media (referring to Halloween night).

    I personally don’t think that there was a delay in holding the conference because of any hostility toward the media, or reluctance to speak off-the-cuff. After hearing President-elect Obama speak, it is clear that he can answer questions thoughtfully. I think that he wanted a chance to reflect, gather information, consult and actually be able to answer questions with some knowledge and intelligence, not just shoot from the hip. I, for one, am absolutely thrilled with that idea.

  • Dan


    the seal above the words office of the president elect is a partial version of the great seal of the united states found on the back of the one dollar bill. it doesnt include the 13 stars arranged in a cloud burst/star of david formation on the full seal. Mr. Senator President elect Obama cannot use the presidential seal, wich differs from the great seal by having 50 stars arranged in a circle and a different cloud burst configuration above the eagles head….

    translation, Mr. Senator President elect Obama wants to appear as “presidential” as possible without breaking the rules…readers should remember his weird attempt at creating his own seal earlier this year…

  • Roger O’Daniel

    Senator Obama seems to realize that he has a huge task ahead of him and not a lot of elbow room to make any mistakes. It is one thing to be a candidate on the campaign trail. It is quite another thing to take on the responsibilities of what must be the toughest job in the world.

    He needs to mellow out lightning fast if he is going to make a positive difference in that job of President. I hope he has more than a few “Dutch Uncle” advisers who will tell him when he is full of fresh country air before the whole world finds out he just made a critical mistake. With power so precariously balanced, he must embed his own balance of power.

    He also has the task of managing the unrealistic expectations of an electorate. His faithful followers have not thought things through to uncover the consequences of the remedies they expect from him.

    If the Federal Government “stimulates” the economy by expanding the money supply beyond the ability of the Federal Reserve to control it, we will have an economic meltdown that will be historic. If our foreign investors decide to buy our Country’s assets with our own money instead of buying our IOUs, they will own us.

  • Bob Collins

    //The term “guys” for anyone is fine with me… I use it all the time, and have for decades.

    Have you ever been my waiter/waitress? If so, I’m the one who looked at you funny when you said “guys” to my wife and me. And didn’t leave a tip.

    I’m a “sir” and “ma’am” — or in this case, ladies and gentleman, kind of guy. I also really dig the formality of the presidency and have missed it terribly (g)

  • Nancy Degenstein

    Please someone get the message to President elect Obama to get a Havenese Dog. They are hypo allergic They are very loving gentle kind affectionate easy to train The cutest dog in the world ever and come in many colors and combination colors. Yes all of you people, lighten up a dog is very important and relieves a lot of stress.

  • boB Sinclair

    Thanks Roger for some serious talk about the task ahead of President-elect Obama, rather than the “fluff” previously commented on. You are right. He does have a huge task ahead of him. I think that he gave us an indication (and only an indication) of the task ahead when he semi-answered the leading question. my guess is that, given the expectations (and most Americans propensity for quick fixes), he will have a short honeymoon with the electorate.

    One other note. One of the questions had to do with asking advise form former presidents. Yes he said, I’ve talked with those that are still living, and have been reading about Abraham Lincoln. Given our current economy, wouldn’t it also be wise to study Franklin Roosevelt?

  • Chris Nelson

    As long as we’re digressing:

    I hope you’re kidding, Bob, about not tipping an otherwise good waiter because he/she referred to you in an informal matter.

    There are some customers who get offended if you refer to them as “sir” or “ma’am” — presumably because it implies that the waiter thinks they are old.

    In my long-haired college days, a waitress accidentally referred to me as “miss” before the table started giggling on my (male) behalf. She was flustered, I was embarrassed–but I certainly didn’t punish her by withholding a tip.

  • JohnnyZoom

    Back to the tough questions.

    This cult-of-celebrity thing going with the Senator is sooner or later going to run into the cult-of-reality. Prediction: By Labor Day 2009, his popularity is toast.

    I should point out that Senator McCain also benefited from this cult-of-celebrity mantra a few years back. But not recently. It would have been very interesting if he still had that mantra on him during the campaign, so the election was between two, er, celebrities.

    Don’t read too much into my post here though. I would have made the same Labor Day prediction for Senator McCain.

  • sm

    He’s not going to give specifics while Bush is still (allegedly) running the show. Depending on how things go his ideas may change in two months about what to emphasize.

    On the perfect mutt search: would you just relax? People have to take some time off from endless doom and gloom.

  • Bob Collins

    //I hope you’re kidding, Bob,

    Yeah, I tip well for good service. My wife bears the brunt of my grumbling about the “guys” thing. It’s my version of “you kids get off my lawn!”

  • Bonnie

    Sorry Bob, I couldn’t log on until now, I’m sure I would have thought of a comment so profound that it would have launched you on to ATC. Alas. I do think you need to lighten up a bit…yes the honeymoon with the press is in full swing, but it is only friday and the celebratory booze hasn’t even worn off most people yet! Things will be sober and serious enough soon enough.

  • Roger O’Daniel

    Reference Bob Sinclair’s comment about FDR.

    FDR did not have a $7 trillion National Debt when he started his Keynsian Economics solution to revive the economy. The US really did not recover from the Great Depression until the start of World War II.

    FYI, if you stacked enough $100 bills on top of each other to pay off the National Debt, the stack would exceed 6-1/2 miles high. If we keep racking up foreign debt and balance of payments deficits, our foreign creditors will eventually use that as an economic weapon against us.

  • Ed McDevitt

    I’m not at all perturbed about the dog question. Editors love it when reporters spend some time on “human interest” material. Many Jack Kennedy press conferences had such discussions intentionally. A lot of what happens in such conferences is PR anyway.

    What’s important about this news conference is its symbolism: putting a real cross-section of experts and stakeholders in our economic situation on the stage. It sure doesn’t hurt to show Larry Summers, Paul Volcker, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. Those are the ones I recognize. I’m assuming that all of the others are those on the NY Times’ list of advisors present at the meeting before the press conference: Robert E. Rubin; Eric E. Schmidt, the chief executive of Google; Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa of Los Angeles; former Commerce Secretary William Daley; William Donaldson, former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission; Anne Mulcahy, chairman and chief executive of Xerox; Laura Tyson, former chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors.

    We need to be mindful of what he said: he’s not the president yet. So he needs to be circumspect in his statements and in how he reveals ideas and plans. He is a very circumspect guy, so I don’t think we need to worry on that score. But we can’t expect him to be expansive in what he says.

    All in all, I found his presentation solid and reassuring.

  • Bob Collins

    //Things will be sober and serious enough soon enough.

    It’s not that I don’t love puppies. I do. And I’m not entirely all seriousness.

    But this nonsense with the 6th question being about the dog comes on top of my experience this morning watching a half hour of CNN,w hen a much-worse than expected employment report came out.

    The story lineup went something like this:

    Unemployment and economy :45 seconds

    Michelle Obama’s dress 4 minutes

    Sarah Palin is a diva 4 1/2 minutes

    And, remember, it’s Barack Obama — not me — who’s telling people we have a lot of work to do, that we have tough decisions to make, and that we have to come up with ideas and work together.

    The dog? That’s all the media.

    I’m on Barack’s page on this one. The sad reality is we may not WANT to deal with the doom and gloom, but Obama is right, people are losing their homes right now. People are losing their jobs right now. And we don’t have the luxury of having a big party.

    I think Obama’s “seriousness” has been all about getting that message across to the American people. And they’re presently not interested.

    But the whole campaign has been all about how important it was to change and FAST… to get some help to the people who need it.

    How is it we can now say “we’ll get to it later?”

    Again, I’m not at all concerned that Barack Obama doesn’t get it. I am concerned that a thinned-out-of-substance press corps doesn’t.

  • I noticed that President-elect Obama’s priorities are different from the priorities apparent in the voting record of the senior GOP member of the MN legislative delegation, John Kline.

    So will Kline follow the advice of his new Commander in Chief in January? Will he be able to put aside partisanship and politics, and work together as a nation to resolve our economic crisis?

    Votes cast by Kline in 2008 that reflect he is seriously out of step with President 44 are on:

    Children’s Health Insurance Program Extension (roll call vote 22)*,

    College Opportunity and Affordability Act (vote 40),

    Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act (vote 84),

    Foreclosed Homes (vote 299),

    Amendment to Foreclosure Prevention Act (vote 301),

    Gas Price Relief for Consumers Act (vote 332),

    Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act (vote 344), Unemployment Compensation Extension Act (vote 412), Foreclosure Prevention Act (vote 519),

    Consumer Energy Supply Act (vote 527)*,

    Energy Security and Consumer Protection Act (vote 599),

    Commodity Markets Transparency and Accountability Act (vote 608),

    Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights Act (vote 623),

    Renewable Energy and Job Creation Tax Act (vote 649),

    and Job Creation & Unemployment Relief Act (vote 660).

    In all of the above, Kline voted NAY. *The bills all passed anyway, WITH THE EXCEPTIONS OF votes 22 and 527.

    Michele Bachmann voted the same way as Kline on almost every vote of the 110th Congress. Kline can probably be expected to ‘mentor’ freshman Congressman-elect Erik Paulsen in the 11th Congress, who has a legislative history of being less ‘moderate’ than Jim Ramstad during 14 years in the Minnesota legislature.

    So did Congressman Kline vote FOR anything this year? Well, yes, he voted to spend $700 Billion on the rescue package, and he voted to spend billions on defense spending, and he voted to spend $165.4 billion to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq through the beginning of FY2009 (vote 431). He also voted to expand NASA operations (vote 421), and to expand rights of gun ownership to District of Columbia residents (vote 601).

    So does this reflect the priorities of the people of Congressional District 2, or is it just the track record of a professed ‘Fiscal Conservative?’

  • Bob Collins

    OK,one new question.

    You saw who was on the podium, you’ve heard the names being bandied about for cabinet.

    We’re a nation of 350 million people. How come when it comes to selecting “the best and brightest” we’ve been getting the same 10-20 people for the last 20 years?

  • MR


    To your most recent question: you don’t get fired for buying IBM.

    If you go with one of the old standbys and not a whole lot changes, you can always say, “well, I picked someone with a lot of experience…blah, blah, blah.” It’s easier than trying to justify taking a big risk with a newcomer full of ideas where you would spend more time answering questions about the appointment than answering questions about the policies. And god forbid the newcomer blows it…then you start getting questions about your judgment, your character…

    With that being said, I do hope that Obama brings in some new faces. Someone has to be doing some new work on these problems.

  • Bonnie

    Great question. I think Obama is still probably swinging around the most “experienced” people he could find even though the election is over. I do, however, think that throughout Reagan and Bush decades, the past 8 years has been such a closeted administration that didn’t want any new ideas…Americans have not been engaged in economic issues because we’ve had the shit scared out of us anytime we raised our hand to ask questions about anything, the answer always coming back having to do with national security and war on terror. We’ve been told to just drink our koolaid and good things would trickle down upon us. Wall street has sucked up the brightest economic minds and lured them away with all that fake bling. I suspect another reader will have lots of examples of new faces, I am not well informed enough to identify.

  • lucia

    I don’t want to see Smudge as the poster dog for your rage Collins.

    As you can tell from her expression she is just as concerned about the future economy as you are.

  • Here’s what Gary Schiff just sent out in his Ward 9 Newsletter to Minneapolis residents:

    City allocated federal foreclosure funds

    There have been 2,304 foreclosures year-to-date in the City of Minneapolis.

    Minneapolis will receive $5.6 million from the federal government to use on efforts to get foreclosed and abandoned homes sold and occupied. “The city will prioritize funding under the federal program to those areas of the city experiencing the highest number of foreclosures,” Tom Streitz, Director of Housing Policy & Development said. “We are also in discussion with the State of Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to receive additional funds from the state allocation of federal funds. Based on our initial conversations with the State we anticipate that we may receive an additional $4 million dollars that will help us speed the recovery of neighborhoods experiencing high numbers of foreclosures.”

    Minneapolis, along with St. Paul and the counties of Hennepin, Dakota and Anoka were chosen to receive the money based on the number and rate of foreclosures, subprime mortgages, delinquencies and defaults. The aid can be used to purchase foreclosed properties for rehab and sale. According to the Star Tribune article by Maria Elena Baca, “The federal money comes with strings attached. At least 25 percent needs to be targeted to help people at or below 50 percent of the state median income. Each state, city or county has to create a plan and submit it by December 1 to HUD, which has 45 days to review it. The money needs to be committed within 18 months, and spent within five years.”

    In addition to federal money, Minneapolis and St. Paul were chosen for the First Look pilot program. “First Look” was developed by the National Community Stabilization Trust who will coordinate the transfer of real estate owned properties from financial institutions to local housing organizations, in collaboration with state and local governments. A benefit of the First Look Program is that the lenders will make the properties available pre-market and at a significantly reduced rate.”

    For complete statistics and maps of mortgage foreclosures in Minneapolis, go to:

    The funds were provided to counties of Hennepin, Anoka and Dakota based on “the number and rate of foreclosures, subprime mortgages, delinquencies and defaults,” according to Schiff’s newsletter, not on the voting of the members of Congress, since Bachmann (Anoka County) and Kline (Dakota County) voted NAY on roll call votes 18, 299, 301, and 519, all on housing and foreclosure bills. Ramstad (Hennepin County) also voted Nay on vote 519.

  • Bob Collins

    Looch, I was just assuming that Smudge’s expression was while she was watching the news conference and someone asked the ‘dog question.’

    I’d do a caption contest on that, but I’m pretty sure I know what three-letter caption would be suggested. (g)

    We have GOT to do a live chat with Smudge one of these days. I’m pretty Smudge is someone who “gets it” and has a lot to say.

  • Matt

    Bob, your dig about reporters driving a truck through Bush is unfounded. It’s not about a honeymoon or swooning; Barack Obama is not the president yet. Lame duck as he is, Bush still has to deal with what happens today, and it’s up to him and this session’s Congress to do something.

    The market tanked, and we want to see what he’s thinking. But we can’t start sticking knives in yet because he isn’t calling the shots. The historical-ness of it all will wear off and you can stop acting holier-than-thou as the media starts holding him accountable. If we did start trying to call the shots, the press would be the first to say he was overreaching.

    As far as the dog, I think it’s a mix of yearning for the days of Camelot yore (Bamelot, like the NDN says) and a backlash of focusing on negative influences. We don’t want to see Amy Winehouse drugged out, we want some positive role models like the Obama family picking out a new puppy — call it a light distraction from the doom and gloom of the economy.

  • boB Sinclair

    //I suspect another reader will have lots of examples of new faces, I am not well informed enough to identify.

    Hey Bonnie, what about Edward Lotterman who writes in the Pioneer Press? He seems to have a good grasp on what is happening.

  • Bob Collins

    I realize he’s not the president yet. What I’m saying is. I also think it’s not correct to suggest that asking a tough question is the same as attacking the man. It’s not. Tough question s– especially followup questions — are meant to seek clarification.

    Now, I don’t know if what he was saying was he’s willing to scale back his tax increase on the wealthy. I *do* know there was considerable chatter on the Hill today that he’d have to.

    So I guess what I’m looking for here is rather than journalists looking for a “cute” story at this point, they seek clarification on what he said.

    I, too, yearn for the days of Camelot and innocence. But as Barack Obama has tried to tell us: we’re in the most serious economic crisis of our lifetimes.

    Asking a good question of Barack Obama does nothing to belittle his role, nor negate the positive image he has.

    I don’t think it’s up to the press corps to be responsible for alleviating the doom-and-gloom. There are plenty of ways to get away from that. The dog story is a nice chance to get a glimpse at the person we just elected. I get that.

    It also belongs on page A8.

    Here’s what I would suggest as a question in its place:

    “Mr. President, you just said the nation lost 1.5 million jobs. The auto industry, upon which the entire economy depends, is in tatters. What can you say today to that person who is going home tonight with a layoff notice?”

    I would suggest that his answer would do more to alleviate the sense of doom than a redirection of the nation’s attention to trivia. I would suggest that it would have given him a chance to be the Comforter in Chief at a time when the person who holds that job, can’t do it or isn’t interested in it and it’s a more important task right now than anything facing him.

    If his response hadn’t been as uplifting as some people think his election itself was, then no amount of dog stories will save us. We actually would be doomed at that point.

    My point is merely that Barack Obama deserved more from the press corps today than trivia. Trivia has never had a hard time finding its place into the news agenda and didn’t really need such a helping hand.

    The guy or woman who lost his job today, isn’t interested in puppies in the White House. And neither am I.

    What our generations need to get through our heads in times like this is everything isn’t about us as individuals.

  • Matt

    Hey, I lost my job 2 weeks ago and I still care about the puppy.

    Just kidding.

    I get what you’re saying, and I agree that times are tough and that this is going to be a serious next 4 years. But they haven’t started yet, and for Barack Obama to start micromanaging the Oval Office before he gets the keys is absurd. He can lay out a plan — which he did, if not in vague terms — but he can’t make instant mandates that people want now if he can’t do anything until Jan. 21.

    No one is putting the Obamadog on A1 — maybe a Have You Heard? on the Strib, but that’s about it — and while it’s unfortunate that Sweet asked this question when the country turned its lonely and unemployed eyes to Barack, it hardly will be more than a blip in the news. CNN doesn’t count. Maybe less a blip in public perception of him.

    Asking tough questions of Barack doesn’t belittle his role, and asking Barack a question that treats him like a person and shows the softer side after a tough hard-fought win doesn’t either. There’s plenty of jokiness in the White House press corps, although most of it doesn’t happen on live TV.

    As president-elect, he stuck in an awkward spot. Can’t be too forward — not his ship yet — and do the job today, but has barely been clued in on enough conversations he wasn’t privy to to know if he can keep his campaign promises. Maybe he can’t be Comforter-in-Chief because he simply can’t say anything that will make it look like he’s stomping on any chance of the Bush Administration and a do-nothing Congress to make a graceful exit. Or maybe, now that he knows just how bad it is — he can’t say anything that uplifting. It’s a dodge job then, and if his words cause the Dow to tumble under someone else’s watch, he’ll get slammed for that too. (Note that CNN had the stock market there below his speech. Just waiting for him to either screw up or help it rally.)

    Most people look to the first 100 days in office as a measure of a President. You want the battering ram in the first 48 hours before he’s actually the President. A healthy level of distrust is needed here, of course, as a journalist. But the guy isn’t running the show, and if he can’t pull any strings right now because he’s not actually in the Oval Office, then he can’t do it. I know we just want to get on with the show, but it’s not here yet.

    And as far as it being about us as individuals — definitely. Dead on. Just wait until he can actually write some policy. Until then, it’s just a waiting game.

  • Bob Collins

    From your lips to God’s ear, Matt.

    Still, I fear the dog is the new Joe.

    But, again, I don’t want a battering ram. I just want the press to change, too in this era of change. And not be so stupid.

    Let’s face it. The Washington Press Corps, like most journalists, don’t know what it’s like to lose a home and — at least yet for those working — lose a job and be unskilled for other options. So I understand why they don’t get it.

    But they don’t get it.

    Washington – 12 square miles surrounded by reality.

    By the way, someone asked earlier who the White House spokesman would be. Given that we’re talking the “Chicago mafia” here and that we can dream, how could would it be to turn the clock back 20 years and have Studs Terkel in the role?

  • JSmith

    To be honest I’ve been slowly picking through, and while most of it seems reasonable and even positive there are a few small things that I wish members of the press had picked up on and sought clarification on:

    From the link:

    The Obama Administration will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation’s challenges. President-Elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by setting a goal that all middle school and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year and by developing a plan so that all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.

    I want to understand a few things. Namely I want to know what those “Corps” programs are actually supposed to accomplish in terms of tasks. I also want to know what is considered community service. I additionally want to know what “promoting” means more specifically. And I really want to know why earlier today it said that community service was required by students (the site text has changed since then).

  • JSmith

    Also, on a slightly more light-hearted note, why is no one mentioning that fact that Obama is proposing eliminating government waste and wasted time in the form of having to fill out extensive paperwork to give the government information it already has, including what you’ve paid out in taxes and how much income you had when filing income taxes (you can still fill out forms if you have additional income or specific deductions), and getting rid of all of the FAFSA (college aid) forms since they can just pull your last tax return.

    Doesn’t he know it will also eliminate jobs!? Who’s going to do all your taxes for you if you can just have it done automatically?! Who’s going to double check all of your financial aid forms and reject you for missing a box if it’s already in the computer? I thought Obama was trying keep people working!

    Sorry to be so tongue in cheek. I actually always wondered about things like that (the government asking you for information it already has) and am glad to see some “trimming of the fat” so to speak.

  • Miguel

    “To your most recent question: you don’t get fired for buying IBM.”

    As an old Dell ad said, “You don’t get promoted either.”

    btw, he is not “Mr.,” “Senator” or “President-Elect” Obama.

    He is “The Office of the President Elect” Obama.

  • NormH

    Yeah, I wish the press wasn’t so “stupid.” Remember when a news blogger from MPR did that “story” about the woman in Denver who supported Hillary Clinton, but WASN’T going to vote for Obama? Supposedly, this represented a BIG problem for Obama. Whatever happened with that?

    That was “stupid.”

  • Bob Collins

    Ah, we’re at that stage of the post-election celebration, are we? Well, you’ll find the post here. So you should have no trouble pointing out where exactly I said it represented a big problem for Obama.

    What I said was the woman — assuming she was legit, of which there’s some question — representing Hillary women — were a nightmare. And, I’m sure you noted how urgently the Obama campaign pushed for Hillary (and to a lesser degree, Bill) to get on board.

    Obama won by a lot of electoral votes, but let’s not go back and rewrite history that he had it all the way.

    The exit polls showed about 6 percent of Hillary women went with McCain. That was more than offset by the number of people under 30 who turned out to vote for Obama, who said — again, according to election polls — they wouldn’t have voted at all if Clinton had been at the top of the ticket.