The Oh-So-Polite Press Corps

By now almost everyone has heard about the controversial answer Obama gave to a question about the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling on the constitutionality of Obamacare, but few people have noticed what wasn’t asked at that press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

With Harper standing right there next to Obama, it seemed a perfect opportunity to ask a question or two about the Keystone XL Pipeline. Harper was reportedly confounded and infuriated by Obama’s decision to block construction of the pipeline, and is proceeding with plans to sell his country’s oil to China despite Obama’s compromise decision to build the pipeline only halfway to Canada, so a joint appearance by the two heads of state could have shed some light on the situation. Instead, the ladies and gentlemen of the press chose to ask about the more anodyne matters of a free trade agreement and a minor squabble over visa requirements.

With Calderon standing right there next to Obama, it was also a perfect opportunity to ask about the Fast and Furious fiasco, a Department of Justice operation that allowed the sale of thousands of weapons to Mexican drug gangs. The botched operation reportedly infuriated the Mexican government when they found out about it long after hundreds of Mexicans had died as a result, yet not one reporter had the temerity to ask either leader about it. A member of the Mexican press did ask about the flow of weapons into Mexico from the United States, giving Calderon and Obama a chance to lament the Second Amendment, but without any mention of Fast and Furious.

The fact that one question prompted such a controversial response that Obama spent days trying to explain it might suggest that the reporters in attendance weren’t entirely deferential, but consider how the question about Obamacare was phrased: “If it were to be ruled unconstitutional, how would you still guarantee health care to the uninsured and those Americans who’ve become insured as a result of the law?” The query, posed by a reporter identified in the transcript as Julianna, as the president is apparently on a first name basis with the White House press corps, was framed as a compliment. The resulting controversy was a result of Obama’s clumsy response, not a hard-hitting question.

White House press conferences used to be more rought and tumble affairs, of course. Somewhere in Texas, we suspect, George W. Bush is wondering when these get-togethers became so chummy.

– Bud Norman

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