On presidents and shouting questions

The president practices eye-contact avoidance.              (ap)

It's a hoary cliche of movies and television shows about the White House: A clamoring press corps, jostling and barking questions at the president. In real life, that doesn't happen much.

Before going into the Oval Office, a Cabinet meeting or other tight presidential event, reporters generally know already whether the president plans to take questions. Getting him to spontaneously answer one he hadn't planned on is trickier, and that involves a shouted question. It's more a lone-gunman thing than the groupish clamor depicted in popular culture, and it demands a certain blustery finesse.

For presidents, answering is matter of personal style. President Bush loathed the shouted question and would more often bestow a sour look than an answer. After a while, White House reporters didn't bother unless the news was so huge that not even trying to ask could be a firing offense. But in eight years, Bush probably bit on shouted questions fewer than a dozen times.

President Obama is sometimes game for shouted questions. Whether he responds seems to depend on a combination of his mood and the topic. On Monday, he ignored efforts by reporters to draw him out on Afghan elections. On Tuesday, he said, “Good try” to a reporter shouting one about the elections. Today, he twice ignored shouted questions about whether he endorses the House version of the health care reform bill.

In September, at the end of a Cabinet meeting, he got a shouted question about whether he accepted Rep. Joe Wilson's apology for calling him a liar during an address to Congress. Obama said he did and actually talked about it for a few minutes.

On other occasions, the president has been led off-topic to make news by a shouted question, so invariably reporters keep trying. It's still early days in the Obama administration, but he doesn't seem to mind it too much. Frustrated reporters also haven't had much of a crack at asking him anything lately — Obama's last press conference was in July.

In othe Oval today after meeting with President Ian Khama of Botswana, Obama was asked by Major Garrett of Fox News whether he was “yes or no” on the House bill. Obama demurred.

“Always gotta try, Mr. President,” Garrett said.

“Nothing wrong with that,” Obama responded, smiling.

 

Beltway ConfidentialUS

Just Posted

A collaborative workspace for a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) in Coordinape is pictured at a recent blockchain meet up at Atlas Cafe. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Business without bosses: San Francisco innovators battle bureaucracy with blockchain

‘The next generation will work for three DAOs at the same time’

Plan Bay Area 2050 is an expansive plan guiding the region’s growth and development over the next three decades. The regional plan addresses progressive policy priorities like a universal basic income and a region-wide rent cap, alongside massive new spending on affordable housing and transportation infrastructure. (Shutterstock)
Plan Bay Area 2050: Analyzing an extensive regional plan that covers the next 30 years

Here are the big ticket proposals in the $1.4 trillion proposal

Pregnant women are in the high-risk category currently prioritized for booster shots in San Francisco. (Unai Huizi/Shutterstock)
What pregnant women need to know about COVID and booster shots

Inoculations for immunosuppressed individuals are recommended in the second trimester

Examiner reporter Ben Schneider drives an Arcimoto Fun Utility Vehicle along Beach Street in Fisherman’s Wharf on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Could San Francisco’s tiny tourist cruisers become the cars of the future?

‘Fun Utility Vehicles’ have arrived in The City

Most Read