In a week dominated by the stimulus bill, I offer my press conference post-mortem observations.
- First, I watched the press conference in its entirety and, then, listened to the press conference at another sitting. Listening to the press conference gives you a more favorable impression of President Obama's performance, but not enough to call this a good performance. His video performance was abysmal and his audio performance merely miserable.
- Obama's stimulus answer - which took nearly 1200 words and more than seven minutes - was often rambling and confused. President Obama would be well served to adhere to the principle that 'brevity is the soul of wit.'
- Obama's larger problem, however, is that he distorts recent American economic history, claiming that it was the Bush Administration's adherence to supply-side economics which caused this recent economic crisis.
- Obama repeatedly referenced that his "bottom line" was to "save or create 4 million new jobs." What a ridiculous standard!! You can see Rahm Emanuel all over this one - after all, how do you disprove a claim that Obama saved 4 million jobs? Can't you just hear the campaign argument in 2012? Our stimulus package worked, because the number of lost jobs would have been much worse had it not been adopted. How do you refute that?
- Obama's Iran answer was, in a word, disastrous. Incoherent is being kind. More troubling, however, was President Obama's assertion that we could, through active engagement, reach of point of mutual respect between the United States and Iran. Short of Iran's reversal of its "destroy Israel" policy, how is it that we develop a relationship of mutual respect? How does President Obama develop a relationship of trust with Ahmadinejad, who professes that the Holocaust didn't happen? As brilliant writer Michael Novak notes in his thought-provoking book, No One Sees God, "For me, no view of life that does not account for the horrors of World War II, especially of those heaps of dead bodies, can ever be trusted."
- Obama's answer on the Tollyban and Pockistan was nearly as incoherent, although his refusal to declare a deadline for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan was commendable. It was most interesting that his references to Taliban safe havens within Pakistan and the need to convey to Pakistan a heightened obligation to deal with such safe havens sounded remarkably like a wholesale endorsement of a major element in the much-maligned Bush Doctrine.
- It was also interesting to note that Obama referenced his letter writing to the families of fallen soldiers as that act which "hit him," revealing to him that he was the President. I bring this up only because I found it a curious juxtaposition between President Obama and President Bush. President Bush made a personal phone call to each and every single family of a fallen soldier, while President Obama apparently just sends a letter. I can't help but feel that this distinction is a reflection of a certain detachment that President Obama feels from the mission in the Middle East, particularly Iraq, and from America's finest men and women.
- President Obama's answer to the question about the etiology of the American financial crisis was absolutely non-sensical and more than anything . . . disingenuous.
- Equally disingenuous was President Obama's claim that his efforts at the stimulus package have been bi-partisan - what? Because he met with Republicans on a few occasions and then, when pressed about Republican desires for larger tax cuts, summarily declared, "I won?" That's bi-partisanship, Mr. President?
- NOTHING, however, was more disingenuous than President Obama's mind-numbing LIE that this stimulus package contained no pork or earmarks - all the while attempting to shift focus to past congressional overspending, as if this excused this appallingly bad stimulus bill.
All in all, President Obama's performance was underwhelming at best. It left the intended audience, i.e. the American public, uneasy about a stimulus package, which seems less about creating jobs than feeding an ever-expanding federal bureaucracy. But, more than that, I couldn't help feeling that the White House is under the control of a group of "wet behind the ears" neophytes, who are fumbling their way through these first few weeks in a manner more befitting a good Saturday Night Live skit, than as leaders of the free world.