Columnist: President Obama has done away with press conferences
U.S. president has only one such conference in the past six months
As U.S. President Barack Obama begins his 2012 campaign for re-election, political columnist Keith Koffler has made a very astute observation that has gone unnoticed by the mainstream press. "President Obama has held just one full length, multi-topic, solo press conference in the last six months, effectively abolishing the most accessible venue for American citizens to observe the thinking and learn the views of their leader," Koffler notes.
It would appear that the Obama White House does its best to control access to Obama, presenting him to local and sometimes national reporters in 'one-on-one' settings.These sessions are a poor substitute for formal press conferences.
"He's had only three since last June, counting a November press conference in Hawaii that was supposed to be devoted to the just-held Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit but which veered off into other issues."
Koffler notes that the president generally doesn't allow questioning during brief appearances at the White House, such as when he makes statements with foreign leaders. George W. Bush, along with previous U.S. presidents have routinely took a couple of questions on the topic of the day at such gatherings.
While former president Bush also held fewer press conferences than he should have, "this doesn't excuse Obama, who would seem especially obligated to appear before the press given his pledges to maintain an 'openness' administration," Koffler writes.
It would appear that the Obama White House does its best to control access to Obama, presenting him to local and sometimes national reporters in "one-on-one" settings.
These sessions are a "poor substitute for formal press conferences. The local reporters are often not as well versed in the subtleties of national and international news as White House reporters and are more likely to be intimidated when suddenly finding themselves sitting in the White House interviewing the president," Koffler notes.
Koffler says that while these reporters granted one-on-one interviews with President Obama, the journalists are not given much time to probe, particularly with Obama's longish answers and so are incentivized to stick to their few prepared questions and "get them in" before time runs out.
And a special invitation to interview the president "is such a coveted coup for any news organization that there is enormous incentive to tread lightly for fear of never being invited back again while watching your competitors be welcomed instead."
Koffler says that the traditional press conference is highly important within a democratic society.
"A number of questions are asked on different topics. The pressure of being on national TV forces the president to explain his thinking. The public gets to actually see the president think and understand how he comes to his conclusions, an invaluable public service.
"What's more, the prospect of a press conference forces the White House to think through its own views. Everybody in the West Wing, including the president, has to stop and consider just what they are doing and why. Often the agencies are mined for answers about current policies so that White House aides can prepare the president, giving the West Wing valuable feedback about what's going on," Koffler writes.
© 2012, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Keywords: U.S. President Obama, press conferences, one-on-one interviews, necessity
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