JONATHAN CHAIT MAY 19, 2010
Here's a good window into the mentality of the Washington press corps. New York Times political reporter Peter Baker tweaks President Obama for not making himself available to answer a question about... last night's election result:
At a ceremony to sign a bill promoting press freedom around the world on Monday, President Obama refused to take questions from the reporters in attendance. “I’m not doing a press conference today,” he told Chip Reid of CBS News, “but we’ll be seeing you guys during the course of the week.”
So when the president hosted a “news conference” in the Rose Garden with the visiting Mexican president on Wednesday, Mr. Reid thought maybe this time Mr. Obama would take questions. Instead, Mr. Obama allowed only a single question from the American media and called on a reporter from Univision, knowing that he would be unlikely to be asked about Tuesday’s anti-incumbent election results.
Sure enough, Mr. Obama was asked about the Arizona law aimed at stopping illegal immigrants, a law he had already denounced in his opening remarks and was happy to denounce again in response to the question.
The zinger about Obama refusing a question at an event celebrating press freedom is fair enough. Baker, though, is outraged that Obama avoided being grilled on a handful of primary campaigns and one House special election? I don't doubt that's the number one question the press corps would want to ask him. But the notion that this is the burning question of the day, and something he must be held accountable for, is kind of daffy.
The question about Arizona is a question about an important public policy issue. Baker is outraged that Obama avoided a question about pure politics -- not even politics that involved him directly -- to address that instead.