Obama Going on Six Months Without a Press Conference


obama5President Obama is preparing for his State of the Union address, expected sometime in the next month, but some in the White House press corps are getting antsy for him to hold a news conference with reporters, something he hasn’t done since July 22, almost six months ago.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday he doesn’t know when Obama may face reporters’ questions again.

“I don’t see one on the schedule, at least in the short term, which is precisely what I said,” Gibbs said, adding, “The last time we had this conversation here about the president’s media strategy, I was informed by many of you that the president was overexposed.”

Obama has given dozens of one-on-one interviews for television, radio and print, and Towson University political science professor Martha Joynt Kumar said presidents tend to favor media exchanges that best suit their particular goals.

With a health insurance reform bill still in flux, Obama is unlikely to do a news conference any time soon.

“He’s very interested in explaining things, and that’s one of the reasons he gravitates towards interviews because in them he can talk at length about particular issues,” Kumar said.

That is unlikely to stop reporters from applying pressure. Veteran White House correspondents such as Ken Walsh of U.S. News & World Report said the news conference format is important because it gives the public a chance to see the president under pressure and being held accountable.

“Sometimes we can bring things out that maybe the country isn’t thinking about. And I think those of us who cover the presidency as a full time job, you know, I think you know there’s an advantage to doing that and asking questions that a president might want to avoid but that the country should really hear about,” Walsh said.

Former President George W. Bush took heat from reporters for holding just three solo news conferences in 2004 and four in 2008 — both election years. In his final year in office, his aides recognized that questions would try to draw Bush into the race between Obama and Sen. John McCain.

“If you guys had him in here, almost everything would be geared towards the election, and he is cognizant of that,” then-Bush Press Secretary Dana Perino said in September 2008.

Former President Bill Clinton did not hold a news conference until three and a half months after his scandal, and then went another 10 and a half months before doing another, which prompted longtime reporter Helen Thomas to demand an inquiry in 1999.

“It’s indispensable that he submit to questioning, because it’s the only forum in our society where a president can be questioned,” she said at the time.

Thomas said Monday that the concern for Obama shouldn’t be about overexposure.

“That’s not the answer. The answer is accountability,” she said.

{Fox/Noam Amdurski-Matzav.com Newscenter}


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