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Barack Obama's delivery of no news is quite smooth

March 25, 2009 |  5:22 am

Tuesday morning The Ticket examined the White House's current political strategy and asked the question of who would show up at Barack Obama's second nationally televised news conference that evening: the president or the senator?

The answer: Neither.

Professor Barack Obama showed up.

And if you remember one of those required college lecture courses in the large auditorium at 8:10 a.m., listening to a droning don, and how it felt, slumped in the cushy seats having skipped breakfast for an extra 13 minutes of ZZZZs.

Democratic president Barack Obama gestures during his White House news conference 3-24-09

This is the problem with trying to drive the political debate by scheduling a prime-time news conference nearly a week in advance. It gets superseded by events, especially by Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner's financial package finally.

True, Obama created real problems in his first national news conference by promising Geithner would deliver too much the next day. And when the inarticulate bureaucrat didn't, the markets plummeted.

But this news conference seemed anticlimactic. (See video below.) At times the president appeared to be mailing in his delivery.

He made no notable news and did so quite smoothly. Unless sticking by his guns over cutting charitable deductions is news.

And the former constitutional law professor did go on in his answers, perhaps not by accident. Holding the floor is another means of control for any president. Like males hold the TV remotes.

The result: only 13 questions in 57 minutes.

And as The Ticket noted during its live blogging, not one single question on either war, including the one the commander in chief recently ordered 17,000 more Americans to march into.

Nothing holding the president to account for the conflicting timelines on who knew what when about the stunning AIG bonuses. Nothing asking him to detail the incredible $40 billion in savings he claims to have discovered in defense spending.

Even when the president was confronted with a blunt question of whether he'd accept the budget without certain favored provisions, he passed up the chance for a clear answer for one re-expressing his confidence that after the legislators have their way with the proposal, he'd get his budget the way he wants it. That's the standard bargaining stance this early in the process, even when the president's own party controls both sides of Capitol Hill.

But claiming "complete confidence" means absolutely nothing. It is every politician's fudged admission that they're dodging a real answer. And usually a dead giveaway of the exact opposite.

Gone from the presidential podium were the ubiquitous, much-noted teleprompters that gave rise to embarrassing suggestions that Obama needs to be fed his words to avoid Special Olympics or Nancy Reagan gaffes. In the twin teleprompters' place? A larger teleprompter in the back of the room where no one watching on TV could see it.

The result for anyone who stayed for the entire presentation was another lengthy, somber less-than-animated sales pitch on the need to spend trillions to jump-start the economy, which he sees promising signs of already at least with one Pennsylvania company (though still not yet Caterpillar), and how we're going to somehow move from an era of spending and greed to an era of savings by spending so much we're gonna double or maybe triple the national debt by the time a two-term Obama would be two years into improving his retirement bowling at Sun City.

Every new president gets a couple of these gimme news conferences, even if this one did bump something as sacred as "American Idol."  But another one of these news-less news conferences, and the broadcast networks may well leave it to cable and C-SPAN in order to stimulate their own economies. Such emptiness causes the newness of a new administration to start appearing old.

BTW, the full text of the Obama news session is available here. View a brief news video summary by scrolling down or clicking on the "Read more" line below here.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Chip Somodeville / Getty Images

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