Brit Hume had this take on yesterday’s presidential press conference:
A White House Press Corps that had been ridiculed for its allegedly fawning coverage was asking tough questions. And a president noted for his easy self-assurance was defensive and even testy at times. He insisted there was nothing new in his tough, and unmistakably new, language on Iran. He never did answer the question of whether the invitation still stands to Iranian diplomats to come to U.S. embassies around the world to celebrate the 4th of July.
[. . .]
In the beginning, it seems, charm and style count, but in the end it’s the results that count most.
And even some usually sympathetic pundits thought Obama was out of sorts and even worthy of a “testy“reel. (What is clear from the “testy” montage is that the president doesn’t understand — or pretends not to — that a public option will drive private plans out of business because the public plan will be subsidized by the taxpayers and not need to worry about making a profit.) CBS declared:
The president faced a press corps that at times seemed exasperated and was quick to challenge him, and Mr. Obama seemed more frustrated with his questioners than he has been in the past.
Aside from the president’s demeanor, there seems to be overwhelming agreement that his “I’ve been consistent” on Iran line was just not credible, as seen in yet another montage. (There is always Chris Matthews, the ever embarrassing spinner for his hero, attacking reporters who dare to be “snarky.”) Indeed, the Washington Post editors devote an entire column to the “shift on Iran.” Of the many big and small untruths the president has uttered (e.g., he doesn’t want to run a car company, he doesn’t like big government), this may be the first one the entire mainstream media called foul on.
Don’t they know they are in the presence of the One? Did they get the “your fawning is too obvious” memo? Maybe the media has been shamed into modestly cleaning up its act. (By historical standards, however, the questioning was still gentle, a pale imitation of what George W. Bush faced.) Or maybe these fearless journalists are shameless followers of public opinion; once the president’s poll numbers dived, the media pack decided to adopt a tougher stance toward the less-dreamy-than-before president.
Let’s see if this was a momentary spasm of independence or whether the press corps has decided it’s time to do their job. Like the president’s newly-toughened tone on Iran, the new-found media independence, if real, is inexcusably late in coming — but the conversion, if it is one, is welcomed.