It’s been more than nine months since President Obama has held a prime time press conference, and you would think those that cover him would be outraged by it. Well, think again, for that’s certainly not what came out of a panel discussion about this issue during this weekend’s syndicated “The Chris Matthews Show.” Quite the contrary, rather than criticize the Commander-in-Chief for refusing to face them in an unscripted environment that he couldn’t control, NBC’s Chuck Todd, MSNBC’s Norah O’Donnell, the New York Times’s Helene Cooper, and the Washington Post’s David Ignatius actually made excuses for him (video embedded below the fold with transcribed highlights and commentary): HELENE COOPER, NEW YORK TIMES: That last press conference was terrible. It’s, we all remember it for the Skip Gates incident, but if you, if you look at it, he was getting a lot of criticism at the time of that press conference that he had had too many, he was overexposed. He was out there too much. And you look at that press conference, and when you go back and you replay it, you see it was a lot of econ, it was a lot of just in the weeds stuff. It got really boring. I thought. Got that? His last press conference stunk — of course, she’s right about that!!! — it was REALLY boring, so why should he give another one? What do you think, Mr. Matthews? CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: I think he was tired. I’m not sure he’s in his best at 9 to 10 at night in prime time. Wow! What, he needs a nap, Chris? How about you, Ms. O’Donnell? NORAH O’DONNELL, MSNBC: What we see is this president favors the one-on-one interview. I think because he doesn’t like the press conference because he doesn’t want to be a pinata for the press, and in some way the journalists in prime time have a lot more control. Well, shouldn’t you WANT that control? Shouldn’t it bother you that — as a journalist, I mean, and not one of his ardent supporters, of course — that this president is REFUSING to give it to you? Apparently not. How about you, Mr. Todd? CHUCK TODD: Well, look I can tell you what they think at the White House why they don’t do these. Hmm. What a surprise. Todd can tell us what THE WHITE HOUSE thinks. Sadly, talking points were all this NBCer was willing to give: TODD: Number one, they feel oddly constricted. The president is a, likes to give long answers. He hates the short formats in general. So, a prime time conference, you really make the networks mad if you go outside of an hour. So, already you, he has in his own mind restrictions that he doesn’t like. All together now: Aaaaaawwww. The most powerful man in the world doesn’t want restrictions when he faces the press. Is he president or King? How about you, Mr. Ignatius? DAVID IGNATIUS, WASHINGTON POST: I don’t think he’s very good at this. I don’t think he’s comfortable at it. In truth, I sometimes wonder if the hurlyburly of politics in general, you know the Washington scene, and these press conferences compress that, that really makes him, makes him comfortable. I think, I think other forms of communication work better for him, they know it, you know, so why go with something that you are not very good at it? Well, David, because it’s traditional for presidents to give prime time press conferences, and it’s your job, and everyone else’s job on that panel, to grill the president at such events. Or would that be too much like journalism? Exit question: How much different would this panel discussion have been if George W. Bush or John McCain was in the White House instead of a man these so-called journalists helped elect?
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Chris Matthews and Panel Make Excuses For Obama’s Lack of Press Conferences