Monday, February 9, 2009

Thoughts on tonight's press conference

Less than an hour ago, President Obama (it still feels good just to write that!) finished his first White House press conference.  I missed the first ten minutes, on account of being held up during a few errands (who knew it could be so hard to find a copy of Good Night, and Good Luck?).  But by and large, I was pleased with the event.  Afterwards, on MSNBC's coverage, the Olbermann/Maddow/Matthews trio began delivering commentary.

First, a complaint:  one of the correspondents, whose name I do not remember, asked Obama a question about a timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan as well as whether Obama would lift the restrictions on media coverage of returning troop caskets.  The first part was answered well enough, if not conclusively, but the second part was not addressed at all.  The particular phrasing of the question - letting the media cover returning troop caskets so that the American people could see the human cost of the war - made it all the more pressing to my mind, and I was rather disappointed that this part of the question was completely ignored.

That is my only complaint.  Chris Matthews, I believe, was the one to point out that Obama actually took the time to fully answer several multi-part questions.  As Keith Olbermann pointed out, the complete answers to several of these complex questions were over seven minutes long.  I agree with the two of them that this is a good thing, by and large - the shortening of our attention span, as a people, is something that must be stopped.  This is why I was disheartened to hear Rachel Maddow say - playing Devil's advocate, I believe - that in lacking the punchiness of sound-byte material, the length of his responses could lose some people.  Yes, when running any advertising campaign, the struggle to maintain a foothold in the mind of the public requires pandering to the shortest of attention spans - but a press conference is not the time for such nonsense!

"Hope" fits on a bumper sticker.  So does "Change we can believe in."  Obama retreated to past turns of phrase come buzzwords often enough during his press conference, the message does not need to be dumbed down any further.

So that's when I stopped watching.  My friend Jack just got here to watch Good Night, and Good Luck, so we're gonna go do that now.  I'll have some updates with more specific information as I'm able to recover the specific details from the media.

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