Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Don’t Give Press Conferences When You Don’t Have Something to Say

It may have been the most perplexing moment of the Obama presidency: The president’s press conference on Thursday when he declared “we don’t have a strategy yet” on ramping up military action against ISIS. The best that people inclined to give Obama the benefit of the doubt could do was say he was speaking with refreshing candor; the rest of us reacted with varying degrees of dismay.

Four days of news stories since have centered on inside-the-administration conflicts when it comes to ISIS, on the damage the president might have done to international efforts to build an anti-ISIS coalition, and the wound he might have inflicted on his own party in the run-up to the election by sounding so irresolute.

After a few days of head-scratching, I think what happened here is pretty simple: The president should not have given that press conference at all since he didn’t know what to say about ISIS. He didn’t have to. He could have stayed silent. It is perfectly acceptable for the administration to find itself in a quandary about how to handle ISIS. This is a very complicated problem, and a fluid one. The purpose of presidential statements, especially when it comes to foreign and military issues, is to establish American policy. The words the president uses are closely parsed by American observers, but that’s nothing next to what happens outside our borders, where the president’s utterances are studied as though they were Talmud by non-Americans for whom the United States doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus.

The president should only speak when he knows what to say.

 


Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »


4 Responses to “Don’t Give Press Conferences When You Don’t Have Something to Say”

  1. DAVID SUDIKOFF says:

    two possibilities:
    1. his aides told him don’t have the press conference, and he told them, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this covered because, after all, I know more than all of you and are a brilliant speaker who can make the oceans cease their rising;”
    or
    2. his aides told him to have the press conference and he said “I’ve got this covered.”

    Either way, we the people have a BIG problem on our hands.
    OY

  2. STEPHEN PARKER says:

    “The President should only speak when he knows what to say,” does not, as you very well know, apply to the illegitimate, de facto President, Barak Obama, but to the duly elected, constitutionally eligible, de jure President, Mitt Romney. What does the founder of this publication say about this fact, in private?

  3. ROMAN SZEREMETA says:

    Well the good news is that at least we don’t have demonization – you know that substitute for policy/strategy as Henry Kissinger observed.
    But I disagree with you about your last statement – “The President should only speak when he knows what to say”.
    This President has broken the nexus between talking and doing anyway, so it doesn’t matter what he says or doesn’t say because he wont DO ( red lines!)even when he says he wont DO eg. he’s slipping back into Iraq!

  4. ROBERT FIPPINGER says:

    The president is just not very good when he:

    1. does not have a teleprompter
    2. is asked a serious question.

    A perfectly adequate response could have gone like this:

    Obama: “My administration recognizes the threat ISIS poses and even now we are putting together a plan to deal with them.”

    Press: “Mr. President can you give us any specifics?”

    Obama: “No. But I assure you we are taking the situation very seriously.”

    Press: “Can you be more specific?”

    Obama: “I have already commented on that. Next question.”

    But then again I am not the president so what do I know?

    /sarc




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.