Obama's press conference: Reviews are in

"Cerebral," "small," "impressive," "too tidy" -- we survey the pundits


Vincent Rossmeier
July 23, 2009 4:24PM (UTC)

Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably know by now that Wednesday night, President Obama held a prime-time, nationally-televised press conference. Obama was trying to generate support for his push to reform the nation's healthcare system. Did he succeed? It might depend on who you ask. Here's a variety of responses to the speech from across the political landscape:

Ben Smith: "The appearance was striking by its absence of a move that’s long characterized Obama’s political career: When in trouble, go big. Faced with a crisis of confidence or with a political furor, he’s repeatedly shown an ability to rise above the storm, and to broaden the playing field, as when he turned a flap over his pastor into a meditation on race in America ... Now, facing his hardest test as President, Obama chose to go small."

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Howard Fineman: "I’ve been covering Barack Obama for a few years, and it’s usually crystal clear what he is up to. Not last night. This is the first time I’ve asked myself: What was THAT all about?"

Digby: "Howard Fineman says that Obama failed to hit it out of the park in his press conference because he didn't sound enough like Ronald Reagan. He was like, totally, boring. I guess the honeymoon really is over. They're responding to him like they used to respond to Clinton. They prefer the president to speak like a six year old as Bush did or an addled elder comedian like Reagan. It's more fun ... Luckily, if actual Americans were listening they likely learned something tonight. Just as they did with Clinton, they like information and explanations that don't insult the intelligence and prefer it when the president speaks to them as if they aren't in some sort of remedial classroom."

New York Times: "...he sounded cerebral as he delved into policy specifics for nearly an hour and tried to link them to the concerns of ordinary Americans."

Wall Street Journal: "Mr. Obama worked to paint the health-care status quo as the least acceptable option. But he acknowledged the skepticism that many Americans feel about the overhaul effort, which Republicans are calling a risky and expensive scheme."

Paul Krugman: "I found Obama’s health care presentation so impressive — so much command of the issues — that it had me worried. If I really like a politicians’ speech, isn’t that an indication that he lacks the popular touch? (A couple of points off for “incentivize” — what ever happened to “encourage”? — but never mind.) ... Seriously, it’s really good to see how much he gets it."

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Jonathan Cohn: "Tomorrow's headline will probably focus on the length of Obama's professorial answers, the small bits of news in his press conference*, and the fact that he seemed genuinely pissed off about what happened to his friend, Henry Louis Gates, in Cambridge the other day. But the most striking thing to me was Obama's willingness--in that question about doctors and a few others--to speak candidly about his health plan, even if that meant giving openings to some of his critics."

Bill Kristol: "So on health care, I’d be surprised if the president changed any minds, because he never seriously tried to address criticism of his proposal on the merits."

Tom Shales: "As usual, Obama turned in an admirably effective performance at the news conference, even if it did seem a little too tidy -- and even rehearsed -- for nearly all the reporters to fall in line and stick with the matter at hand rather than pursue their own little butterflies as in many administrations past."

Chris Cillizza: "But, from his opening statement on, it was clear that part of Obama's goal in the press conference was to directly rebut charges leveled against him and his health care plan by Republicans."

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Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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