By MATT TOWERY
Morris News ServiceLike him or not, Barack Obama once again presented a cool, calm and
collected image during his most recent press conference. And his
appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" was a hit with the
Republicans and conservatives have a major problem on their hands,
because even if Obama is reading every word he speaks, he is scoring
big points in the image game.
At the same time, he's getting an easy ride with most media, even if
the same can't be said of all the officials in his administration.
Early in his latest press conference, I was struck by the docile
questions being lobbed the president's way.
It took the CBS White House correspondent to finally hit the president
with anything resembling a tough question. More direct questions
followed. What was absent was the "gotcha" confrontational press corps
we've seen in prior administrations. This may be a part of the
so-called "honeymoon" period that presidents allegedly enjoy. Or it
could be an extension of what I viewed to be special treatment of
candidate Obama against both Hillary Clinton and John McCain.
All this is plain enough. What's truly innovative with Obama's press
conferences, though, is their tightly managed presentation -- who's
included and who's left out, plus the trick of having journalists ask
supposed questions that are really openings for the president to
Gone are the days in which members of the press fight to be heard and
are called upon at random. Pre-picked questioners are nothing new to
presidential press conferences. But gone are the times when a president
would point to a reporter and identify the person by their hair color
or clothing style. Obama has his list of favorites.
This was the first presidential news conference I have seen in which
both The Washington Post and The New York Times were shut out of the
questioning. Now there's "real change" for you.
One reporter did manage to get something edgy in. He reported that a
phenomenal number of American children are now homeless, and that tent
cities have sprung up all over the country. The softball part of his
question was, in essence, "Why haven't you solved this yet?" Give us a
break. No one in that room or watching that press conference expected
that Obama would have solved the human impact from the financial crisis
in two months. This question could have instead been phrased: "Mr.
President, the Reagan and Bush years of cold-heartedness and reckless
economic policy now have millions of people living in tent cities. When
can you rescue these people?" Obama promptly acknowledged the
information the reporter provided, and then said essentially that it
will take time to solve the problem. A softball hit out of the park.
But what about these tent cities? Well, one New York publication
recently wrote that tent cities are being erected throughout the
nation, particularly in the South and the Midwest and on the West
Coast. It specifically mentioned Atlanta, the city where I spend much
of my time, as one of the areas with the greatest problems.
Sure, Atlanta has homeless people, as do other places. But trust me, if
there is a tent city in Atlanta, no one has seen it. The same goes for
most of the areas mentioned in the article. There are tent cities in
some places, such as California, and it is possible we may all be
living in tents if we have to pay off the mind-blowing cost of spending
proposed by Washington.
But to give the nation the impression that America's cities are
littered with large modern-day "Hoovervilles" is just another example
of how we are being led down the path of believing that not only wealth
but a mere comfortable living should be questioned because we now are
in a depression so bad that everyone has taken to their local park to
Here's the dirty little secret about some of the "tent cities":
They are prompted by "community activists" and are conceived less to
provide refuge for the poor than as a means of political protest.
I don't want anyone sleeping out in the cold, just like I don't want
any president to be unnecessarily roughed up by the media. But it's
time that both the White House and the press start insisting President
Obama not be given a cakewalk and his press conferences not be turned
into messaging from the media.
Matt Towery served as the chairman of former Speaker Newt Gingrich's
political organization from 1992 until Gingrich left Congress. He is a
former Georgia state representative, the author of several books and
currently heads the polling and political information firm
InsiderAdvantage. To find out more about Matthew Towery and read
features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the
Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.