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Shocker: The Press Asks Obama Questions

From Dana Milbank at the Washington Post:

Ask Tough Questions? Yes, They Can!

By Dana Milbank
Tuesday, March 4, 2008; A02

SAN ANTONIO It took many months and the mockery of “Saturday Night Live” to make it happen, but the lumbering beast that is the press corps finally roused itself from its slumber Monday and greeted Barack Obama with a menacing growl.

The day before primaries in Ohio and Texas that could effectively seal the Democratic presidential nomination for him, a smiling Obama strode out to a news conference at a veterans facility here. But the grin was quickly replaced by the surprised look of a man bitten by his own dog.

Reporters from the Associated Press and Reuters went after him for his false denial that a campaign aide had held a secret meeting with Canadian officials over Obama’s trade policy. A trio of Chicago reporters pummeled him with questions about the corruption trial this week of a friend and supporter. The New York Post piled on with a question about him losing the Jewish vote.

Obama responded with the classic phrases of a politician in trouble. “That was the information that I had at the time. . . . Those charges are completely unrelated to me. . . . I have said that that was a mistake. . . . The fact pattern remains unchanged.”

When those failed, Obama tried another approach. “We’re running late,” the candidate said, and then he disappeared behind a curtain.

Before he beat his hasty retreat, however, Obama found time to assign blame for the tough questions suddenly coming his way. “The Clinton campaign has been true to its word in employing a ‘kitchen sink’ strategy,” he protested. “There are, what, three or four things a day?”

Spoken like a man who had just been hit on the head with a heavy piece of porcelain…

“I don’t have any preliminary statement,” Obama said as he began his news conference, encouraging reporters to “just dive in.” That was a mistake.

Tom Raum of the Associated Press led off with a question about whether an Obama aide had told Canadians not to take seriously the candidate’s public rhetoric critical of the NAFTA trade agreement. “Let me, let me, let me, let me just be absolutely clear what happened,” Obama answered, explaining that the meeting was a “courtesy” and involved no “winks and nods.”

Then an agitator — columnist Carol Marin with the Chicago Sun-Times — broke in. Marin, a visitor to the Obama entourage who accused the regulars of being too “quiet,” accused the candidate of concealing details about fundraisers Rezko had for him and a real estate transaction between the two.

“I don’t think it’s fair to suggest somehow that we’ve been trying to hide the ball on this,” Obama answered. But this only provoked a noisy back-and-forth between Marin, Sun-Times colleague Lynn Sweet and Michael Flannery from Chicago’s CBS affiliate. “How many fundraisers? . . . Who was there? . . . Disclosure of the closing documents?”

Obama, while repeating his formulation that it was “a boneheaded move” to do business with Rezko, tried to shut down the requests for more information. “These requests, I think, could just go on forever,” he said. “At some point, what we need to try to do is respond to what’s pertinent.”

Reporters, however, had a different idea of what was pertinent, and the questions about Rezko, NAFTA and other unpleasant subjects continued to come. An aide called out “last question,” and Obama made his move for the exit — only for reporters to shout after him in protest. “C’mon, guys,” he pleaded. “I just answered, like, eight questions.”

The questioning, however, has only just begun.

The Saturday Night Live sketch had very little to do with any of this. And Mrs. Clinton’s “phone call” ad even less.

It is far more likely that the press is just now being fed the questions to ask. And, more importantly, they have decided it might better serve their agenda to actually ask them.

For it is is a preposterous myth that our watchdog media do much if any investigating on their own.

At best they follow up on the press releases, tips and opposition research from other interested parties.

But, of course, they only do that when they feel it will help their own agenda — or rather, the Democrat Party’s.

If the media is now at the eleventh hour deciding to question Obama, it is probably because polling numbers are starting to show he might not be as viable a candidate for their side as Mrs. Clinton after all.

After all, this is a candidate who cannot admit his middle name.

The questioning, however, has only just begun.

It is to laugh.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, March 4th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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