LOS ANGELES, August 10, 2013 - President Obama held his first press conference in four months featuring questions from the White House press corps.
He called on friendly reporters who ranged from polite agreement to sycophantic worship. Occasional tough questions were ignored. Rambling answers prevented additional questions.
Though the Benghazi and IRS scandals are far more serious, the NSA scandal upsets members of Obama’s base more, forcing him to discuss it.
“Given the history of abuse by governments, it is right to ask questions about surveillance,” Obama said, cleverly suggesting that past administrations, most recently George W. Bush’s, have crossed the line while his own has been much more noble.
He said he wants his national security team to be “more transparent,” and listed four steps to boost public confidence in national intelligence efforts.
The first is to conduct “appropriate reforms” to Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. Obama said that the act is “not being abused,” but that it could be.
However, people are upset over perceived violations now, not just potential abuses.
The second step is more oversight and reforms of the FISA court. Obama noted that a judge hearing only from the government does not hear both sides of the story. Though it didn’t involve the FISA court, he might have mentioned Attorney General Eric Holder lying to a federal judge to target Fox News reporter James Rosen.
Step three is more transparency. Obama directed agencies to release as much NSA information as possible. He wants to hire a full-time civil liberties and privacy officer. This would be symbolic since Obama is the decision maker. He also wants a website to serve as a hub for further transparency.
Step four is hiring outside experts to review surveillance technologies.
Step three would be sufficient, if Obama were serious about it: The Obama Administration should simply be transparent.
Obama continues to protest, “America is not interested in spying on ordinary people.” Other governments “throw their own citizens in prison for what they say online.”
Obama had a film-maker thrown in prison for jeopardizing Obama’s reelection chances. The film-maker remains imprisoned. Nobody is taking responsibility for pushing a false video narrative.
The questions were mostly shameful.
Julie Pace of AP asked if Putin was to blame for rising tensions. This allowed Obama to deflect blame. Obama wants to “encourage Putin to think forward as opposed to backwards.”
Chuck Todd of NBC News asked if Snowden was a whistleblower and a patriot, rather than a hacker. Todd also asked if Obama could get anything done with Russia.
Obama drifted from reality.”I don’t have a bad personal relationship with Putin,” he said. The press “likes to focus on body language.”Russia needs to look “forward.”
“I don’t think Mr. Snowden is a patriot,” Obama said. “I called for a thorough review” before Snowden made his lists.”Our laws specifically prohibit us from surveilling U.S. persons without a warrant.”
Obama brazenly blamed the NSA scandal on a lack of checks and balances from the courts and Congress.
Major Garrett of CBS News threw a major softball. He wanted to know if Obama was “annoyed” by chatter about his choice for the next Federal Reserve Chairman.
Yes. He is annoyed, just as when Susan Rice was attacked.
Obama reinvented economic history, stating that before Paul Volcker, the Fed was not paying attention, so inflation shot up. He left out Jimmy Carter’s destructive policies.
Carol Lee is the lovestruck schoolgirl who gushed the day after the 2012 election that she had never seen Obama lose. She continued to fawn all over him.
“I appreciate you making it a slow news week.”
She then asked why Obama changed his position on domestic surveillance. He said he did not.
“Abuses would be against the law. …I am comfortable the program is not being abused.”
It is so because he says so.
Jonathan Karl of ABC News actually asked a substantive question. “Do you still believe that al Qaeda has been decimated?
Obama offered a tortured Clintonian explanation of what he really meant. He said “core al Qaeda was on its heels,” but that al Qaeda has metastasized into regional groups. The centralized group behind 9/11 has broken apart and is very weak. They do not have a lot of operational capacity. Regional groups pose a threat.
Ed Henry of Fox News asked whether selective Obamacare enforcement was illegal. He also wanted to know where the Benghazi killers are.
Obama was now in full defiance mode.”I got bin Laden.” Refering to Benghazi, he said,”There is a sealed indictment.”
In other words, no transparency.
“I didn’t simply choose to delay this on my own,” he said.
Actually, he did.
Pivoting back to his decision to delay the employer mandate, Obama said, “We did have the executive authority to do so, and we did so.”
Actually, he did not.
Obama praised Obamacare’s benefits without mentioning that it is crippling hiring. He turned petulant when he claimed that the number one GOP priority is making sure that 30 million people don’t have healthcare.
He claimed that with any new product rollout, “there will be some glitches.”
He compared Obamacare to a “car company rolling out a new car,” and “Apple rolling out a new iPad.”
Those companies use company money, not taxpayer funds.
When Obama tried to blame Republicans in advance for a government shutdown, Jessica Yellin of CNN asked if he would choose to let the government shut down over Obamacare.
He deflected, saying “we’ll see what happens.”
The final loaded question about immigration reform noted that House Republicans are often in “white districts.” This played the race card and allowed Obama to talk until he was ready to leave.
A press conference about transparency still left unknown where Obama was when four Americans were murdered in Benghazi. He also failed to answer why his administration is still targeting half the country through ongoing IRS abuses.
People are not losing trust in “government” or “Washington.” They are losing confidence in Obama, and he refuses to admit this. Changes are useless unless he changes his behavior and starts being the transparent leader he promised to be.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.”