Friday, November 07, 2008

Head of State Live Analysis: Obama's First News Conference

Pre-conference: Borger reports that "word is" Obama plans FDR-style works program. If so, will be interesting to see how such a program flies under 24-hour news cycle scrutiny.

Eight flags behind a podium. The podium has a sign reading "The Office of the President-Elect" in the now familiar Obama blue and white Obama design and small caps font.

The Dow is up 254.16 as we wait.

The economic advisers gather behind the podium. Rahm Emanuel holds his chin, nods.

They firm their lines, most with hands clasped in front of them, chatting lightly in their places.

Obama walks in with Biden.

The U.S. has only one Government and One President at a time. I've spoken with Bush

Immediately after I become President, I will take this economic crisis head on.

Met this morning with my Economic Advisory Board standing behind him, along with Biden. Will work with Emanuel.

First, need rescue plan for middle class. Jobs and relief.

He is nervous, slightly constrained, body turned inward. Not meeting eyes or looking forward. Looks strained and slightly nervous. May be feeling weight, recognition of what is upon him. This will ease out as he becomes accustomed to power.

His grasp of words betrays an anxiety, a detachment from the words themselves not seen during the campaign.

You can see how the Right will begin to beat him when they do--as too detached, not showing the aggressive-passion-strength and simplicity that symbolizes leadership to them.

He is getting through this one so far.

Now opens for questions.

Looking up more, still obviously quite nervous.

Reporter: Are you still confident that you can do something during the lame duck session before you take office?

Obama: I want to see a stimulus package. If not during this session, when I take office.

Jake Tapper on Ahmadinejad letter. What will you do about it?

Obama: Iran's development of a nuclear weapon is unacceptable. We must mount an international effort to keep that from happening. Support of terror must cease. I will examine letter. It has only been 3 days since election. Should not respond in knee-jerk fashion. We only have one President at a time.

Chip Reid: When you disagree with Bush decisions, will you defer, challenge, confront? I am touring White House. Will be substantive discussions.

Obama is now finding his sea legs, becoming calmer, more authoritative, finding voice he had during campaign. Brain is attaching to mouth, nerves settling, and the thinking Obama is coming to life on this question. Quick. 10 minutes into first news conference. Nice.

Obama: With 2 wars and a financial crisis, is it important to move quickly on filling key posts? I want to move with all deliberate haste, but emphasize deliberate. Proud of choice of VP and COS because thought it through. Important to get it right.

Reporter: To what extent will you use influence to fill Senate seat? This is Governor's decision, not mine. Criteria would be same as if I were voter.

Lynn Sweet (Chicago Sun Times) rising with arm in sling:

Obama: What happened to your arm, Lynn?

A relaxed, Kennedyesque moment. Stretching, stepping into himself.

Sweet: Hurt arm going to speech.

Obama: I think that was the only incident in Grant Park that night.

Sweet has not been entirely friendly, just the slightest note of strength by Obama answering the slightest implication. Using his ability to modulate tone well.

Sweet: People want to know, what books are you reading, what kind of puppy will you get, what schools will the children attend?

A surprisingly friendly, "soft" and personal question from Sweet. Making amends?

Obama: Spoke with all living Presidents, don't want to get into Nancy Reagan seance thing. (The Rightwing blogs will be quoting that line, looking for something to scream about). Dog--this is a major issue We have 2 criteria that have to be reconciled--Malia is allergic, so has to be hypoallergenic. We would prefer to get a shelter dog, but a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me. Schools. Michelle will scout out.

Just the slightest mixture of mock seriousness, humor, and actual seriousness . This ability to shift into a slight tone of recognition of the humor in the decision contrast, yet also recognizing its essential humanity, is Obama's version of the Kennedyesque touch that he can bring to the White House. A self assured recognition of the importance of world situations, while also reocgnizing the importance of humanity's daily life. This is similar to the ability to move from serious consideration to ease and humor that symbolizes undefensive confidence--this was also displayed early Kennedy news conferences, if you've seen them.

A willingness to take on the full strength and importance of decisions--while also, without giving up responsibility or the strength and deliberation that must be fully devoted to it--as seen in the striking, surprising and positive self-deprecation of "mutts like me"--the ability to do this is an indicator of genuine confidence, rather than hubris.

Crowley (pressing Obama): You are privy now to intelligence. First, what do you think of state of US intelligence, does it need beefing up, interaction; Second, has anything you've heard given you pause about anything you said on campaign trail?

Obama: Candy, as you know, if were, couldn't tell you. Intelligence process can always improve, has gotten better.

Zeleny (Times): Intend to seek income tax increases for upper class Americans, expect to pay higher taxes in '09?

Obama: My plan provided for tax cut; 95% of working Americans would receive them; tax credits. Priority is grow economy, provide jobs. Goal of my plan is to provide tax relief to families that are struggling but also boost economy from bottom up.

In one news conference, as stepped into questions, moved from a early nervous detachment, to his own voice, the voice we have seen throughout the campaign--with questions, not with a speech--that is what brought him to thought and life.

We have a taste of what a President Obama will be like--much as he was during campaign. Thoughtful, calm, deliberate, a touch of strength, ease, humor, ability to be personal. To the absurd critiques that Obama could "only deliver speeches", we have a calm, strong, definitive answer.