In his regular online chat at washingtonpost.com, Post media reporter Howard Kurtz responded to a question about Obama holding more press conferences to give the people "an ongoing view of his intellect, grasp of issues, and moderate temperament and views," but he seems to have "little, if any respect" for the press corps. Kurtz responded:
My sense is that the president respects the mainstream media but has little patience for cable food-fight shows, inflammatory bloggers or conservative radio talk show hosts (he has criticized Rush, Glenn and Sean by name several times).
That sounds like "Obama has little patience for shows and blogs which are willing to challenge his mythic status and suggest he's neither experienced nor wise." Kurtz continued:
But any president is going to do what's in his self-interest, and he clearly decided after the news conference last July -- the one in which his final answer, about Skip Gates [that the police "acted stupidly"], set off a huge flap -- that such events are not ideal for getting his message out. He much prefers one-on-one interviews.
I asked Gibbs about this, and he cited two instances in recent months in which Obama took up to eight questions. These are mini-pressers at best, and there haven't been many of those, either. I do think a president has an obligation to regularly meet with the press corps, and since Obama is quite good at it, his recent reluctance is puzzling.
Obama prefers one-on-one interviews. Translation: he prefers going on burger runs with Brian Williams or talking to Barbara Walters about getting a dog. He doesn't like hostile questions that demand improvised answers instead of carefully prepared spin.
When the first question in the chat charged Obama was getting "idolatrous" press coverage compared to previous presidents, Kurtz took exception:
"Idalatrous" is a little strong; Obama got kicked around quite a bit during the months when he couldn't seem to get health care or anything else passed. I don't think that Robert Gibbs and his colleagues are especially thin-skinned compared to the other administrations I've covered. Maybe they were spoiled by the campaign.
But the president in particular keeps rapping the 24/7 news cycle and cable chatter. I was able to get Gibbs to acknowledge that they are willing participants in the media culture that they enjoy critiquing. And, of course, the press makes a useful foil for any president.
Kurtz is having an informal conversation, so charging Obama was "kicked around quite a bit" by the media before his health "reform" bill passed doesn't require footnotes. Perhaps he's referring to talk-show chat like Dan Rather claiming Obama "couldn't sell watermelons" with state troopers flagging down traffic.
But Kurtz would have a hard time trying to claim Obama's press was in any way more negative than his opponents like Sarah Palin or the Tea Party protesters received from the "mainstream" media in the final month or two of the health-care campaign.