President Barack Obama dramatically ended his two-month hiatus from press questions on Monday when he sauntered into the White House briefing room to take questions from the White House press corps.
Last week, the White House press corps, lashed out against Obama for ignoring them while giving interviews to Entertainment Tonight and People magazine.
ABC News’ White House Correspondent Jake Tapper blogged last week — and expressed his displeasure — about Obama’s dismissal of the White House press corps.
This weekend, Obama’s surrogates said outlets like Entertainment Tonight and People were as important as the White House press corps.
Today, after Obama made a surprise appearance at the White House press briefing, the White House press corps proved the Obama campaign to be right; they are no different from Entertainment Tonight or People magazine. The room was in no way hostile.
Obama, after being put on defense last week by Paul Ryan, opened his press conference by again talking about Medicare.
The first question then went to Associated Press reporter Jim Kuhnhenn, who asked Obama about Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-MO) comments about “legitimate rape.”
Kuhnhenn asked if Akin’s views “represent the views of the Republican party in general.”
“Rape is rape,” Obama said, providing the ideal soundbite for the day’s anti-Republican narrative.
CBS News reporter Nancy Cordes, who shilled for Obama when she guest-hosted “Face The Nation,” asked about Romney’s taxes and the ads cut by Obama’s SuperPAC that essentially accused Mitt Romney of being responsible for the death of Joe Soptic’s wife, who died because she did not have adequate health insurance.
“Nobody accused Mr. Romney of being a felon,” Obama said, in an outright lie. That is in fact what Obama’s deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter did say:
…either Mitt Romney, through his own words and his own signature, was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony… Or he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people to avoid responsibility for some of the consequences of his investments.
Cordes did not press Obama on this point.
Then Tapper, who whined last week that Obama wasn’t paying the likes of him much attention, had his moment to prove to the world that he — and the White House press corps — was really angry at Obama by asking him some tough questions.
Tapper didn’t ask Obama about anything controversial or difficult, such as the “You didn’t build that” comment. Instead, he asked Obama what Americans could expect out of Washington to bring economic growth to the country in the coming months, and gave Obama an excuse to tout his various economic talking points.
Then NBC News’ Chuck Todd asked Obama about Romney’s taxes and Syria.
Regarding Romney’s taxes, Obama invoked his opponent’s father, George, as Harry Reid famously did; made a comment about how a president’s — or a presidential candidate’s — life is “an open book when it comes to things like your finances;” and then implied Romney should release his medical records as well.
“We normally do that as well,” Obama said, referring to medical records.
The White House press corps roared in laughter. But they were not laughing at Obama — or the irony of Obama’s comments. Obama, with his past history of cigarette and cocaine use, has only released a one-page doctor’s note. But the White House press corps was oblivious to this and laughed with Obama.
On Syria, Obama said his calculus would change if “we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons being moved around or being utilized.” Obama said that would be a “red line.”
“That would change my calculus,” Obama said. “We have put together a range of contingency plans … That’s a red line for us.”
After these comments, the White House press corps did not express the outrage or the consternation they would have had the president been a Republican, like when George W. Bush spoke about chemical and biological weapons in the lead-up to the Iraq War.
As Obama left the dais and exited the briefing room, the White House press corps gushed over him, grinning uncontrollably, treating him like a rock star.
Had the White House press corps really been angry at Obama, they would have asked questions about Fast and Furious, Solyndra, national security leaks, Obama’s college records, GM, the new e-book that details a dysfunctional Obama reelection campaign, or a host of other things.
Instead, they allowed Obama to capitalize on Akin’s rape comments. They asked two foreign policy questions, allowing Obama to spend time on what recent polling suggests is his strength).
Obama takes the White House press corps for granted because he knows they are not going to put on the Republican jersey, let alone the neutral umpire’s jersey, in an election year. And the White House press corps — like fools in love — continues to allow Obama to abuse them.