Politico Calls for Softballs at Today’s Presidential News Conference

Always ones to try and set The Narrarive, today Politico leads with a story laughably titled, “Hard questions await Obama at news conference.” And just to be extra helpful, Politico includes questions it thinks should predicts will be asked.

Hang on, Mr. President… Things are about to get rough:

1. Do you believe the FBI should have told you and Congresssooner about the investigation that led Gen. Petraeus toresign?

This question is intentionally premised on a matter-of-fact assumption that no one in the Administration knew about the probe prior to Wednesday, when we all know Attorney General Eric Holder knew and claims he didn’t tell the president. So why not ask Obama if he believes Holder should’ve informed him immediately? The question also makes Obama out to be the victim of those nasty agencies.

No one’s arguing that today’s questions should be premised in a way that assumes Obama did something wrong, but let’s get the President on camera and on the record stating declaratively that neither he nor anyone in the Executive Branch knew about the Petraeus affair prior to the election.

2. Do you worry about a culture in which trusted officials behave badly? Does this administration consider anyone who’s having an extramarital affair, or has had one in the past, to be unfit for public office?

This question is not only dumb, it’s premised in a way that intentionally allows Obama to assume some high-ground and then lecture the rest of us. That’s not a “hard question,” it’s a “softball opportunity.” And since when did the media get all high and mighty about extramarital affairs having anything to do with whether or not someone is fit to hold office? Wasn’t it just two presidents ago we were told by this very same press corps that adultery in the Oval Office and presidential perjury were “just about sex.”

Why, yes — yes, it was.

3. On the fiscal cliff, is your bottom line rates or revenue? Is it enough to close tax loopholes and deductions on the wealthy, or must tax rates also go up in order for you to sign a deal?

Over the last couple of days, and in no uncertain terms, Obama’s already answered this question. What the media’s looking for here is a soundbite to play over and over again that allows Obama to pitch his tax hike endlessly as it’s re-broadcast endlessly. The media is desperate for Obama to bring Congressional Republicans to their knees on this issue and an effective soundbite Obama’s undoubtedly prepared for will help move that ball.

Asking a question already answered at the first presidential news conference in eight months is a wasted opportunity. A savvy press corps eager to do its job will be much less predictable. Why not ask about the study that says this tax hike will cost jobs? Why not ask why the Administration is so wedded to a largely symbolic tax hike we all know will never put a dent in the deficit?

Maybe Obama will be asked that. Who knows? I’m just trying to point out how ridiculous Politico is.

4. Some in your party, including a Senate Democratic leader, say the country should go over the cliff if Republicans don’t relent on taxes. Can you say right now the cliff will not be breached?

Note the wording: “if Republicans don’t relent on taxes.” You see, it’s all going to be the Republicans’ fault; that’s the set-up going in. It’s not about Obama’s leadership or lack thereof, and it’s certainly not about how it might be time for this president to show some bipartisanship and meet the other side somewhere in the middle. It’s the Republicans who must “relent” — not Obama, not Democrats, and not the media.

5. You said during the last presidential debate with Mitt Romney that the defense sequester “will not
happen.” Was that a misstatement or are you really that confident?

Translation: You seemed to throw away a major bargaining position with Republicans when you showed this card during the debate and we would like to give you an opportunity to take it back. You’re welcome.

6. Why was the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi so lightly guarded, despite complaints about deteriorating security conditions in Libya?

Oh, so NOW you want to know this. This is a fairly safe way for the media to pretend its doing its job on Libya — you know, get on the record. But we all know Obama’s going to defer to the investigation and make commander-in-chiefy pronouncements about how this can never happen again.

The media is well aware that the only way to get Obama to answer questions and come out from behind this “investigation” is to start a Narrative Nightmare like the one currently swamping David Petraeus. But because the media’s terrified of a truth that only starts with these fatal security decisions, we’re headed right back into Petraeusville till spring.

But why not ask Obama why, in the days and weeks after the attack, members of his Administration (including the President) stuck by the lie that there was “no evidence” of a pre-planned attack? Why not ask why Obama told “60 Minutes” one thing the day after the attack (that was never broadcast) but told the American people something completely different for a full two weeks after?

7. So, about those new pot laws. Does the federal government plan to intervene in Washington and Colorado, which both voted to legalize marijuana last week?

Fine. Whatever.

You have to keep in mind that Politico isn’t just guessing at the questions Obama will be asked at today’s news conference, they’re hoping to shape the questions in advance. And as you can see, the questions cover all the important issues of the day but are intentionally presented in a manner that won’t leave a mark.

Again, no one is asking for Obama to be treated with disrespect or barraged with “gotcha” questions. He’s the president of the United States and should be treated as such. But there are ways to dig in and ask penetrating questions that matter without crossing that line.   

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