President Obama Doesn’t Get to Enjoy Good News

The press, and a swirl of events, wouldn’t let it happen Friday.

President Obama answers a question after making a statement in the briefing room of the White House on August 1, 2014 in Washington.
National Journal
George E. Condon Jr.
Aug. 1, 2014, 12:43 p.m.

There has been so little good news lately that Pres­id­ent Obama shouldn’t be faul­ted for want­ing to cel­eb­rate the latest jobs re­port Fri­day morn­ing, which showed an­oth­er month of im­press­ive jobs growth. But he quickly learned that the White House Brief­ing Room is not a good place to try to take a little vic­tory lap. It turns out that neither the re­port­ers nor world events would let that hap­pen.

The pres­id­ent began his press con­fer­ence with the jaunty de­clar­a­tion that this was a “happy Fri­day.” He then rattled off the day’s em­ploy­ment stat­ist­ics, boast­ing of what he called “a six-month streak with at least 200,000 new jobs each month.” He then felt se­cure enough to use words he pre­vi­ously could not to de­scribe the eco­nomy. Words like “stronger” and “bet­ter” and “re­covered.” He even went so far as to use the ul­ti­mate word in de­scrib­ing an eco­nom­ic re­cov­ery — “boom­ing.” With great sat­is­fac­tion, he de­clared: “Our en­gines are rev­ving a little bit louder.”

Doub­ling down on his joy, he then went for the easy jab at a par­tis­an tar­get just beg­ging to be poked — the em­bar­rass­ing fail­ure of House Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship to rally the GOP troops Thursday be­hind Speak­er John Boehner’s pre­ferred meas­ure to deal with the crisis on the na­tion’s south­ern bor­der. With his own com­pet­ence very much be­ing ques­tioned by crit­ics in re­cent weeks, the pres­id­ent turned the tables, mix­ing sar­casm and mock­ery to note that House Re­pub­lic­ans were fight­ing among them­selves and were show­ing them­selves less than ad­ept at run­ning a le­gis­lat­ive cham­ber. He also noted the dis­son­ance in mes­saging when the House GOP is su­ing him for ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions they dis­like but now they are “sug­gest­ing I should act on my own be­cause they couldn’t pass a bill.”

Boehner’s of­fice was quick to is­sue a state­ment in­sist­ing “that there is no con­tra­dic­tion at all in our po­s­i­tion on ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion.” But that is not how it ap­pears even to some con­ser­vat­ive com­ment­at­ors.

Had Obama left the Brief­ing Room at that point, he might even have done a little jig. He was clearly pleased. But he didn’t leave. And the ques­tions from re­port­ers were im­me­di­ate re­mind­ers of all the things that aren’t go­ing well in the world. The ques­tions were about fail­ures — the failed cease-fire in Ga­za, the failed at­tempts to af­fect Rus­si­an be­ha­vi­or in Ukraine, the fail­ure to work with Re­pub­lic­ans. It came to a head when Bill Plante of CBS News bluntly put the fail­ures at his feet.

“Has the United States of Amer­ica lost its in­flu­ence in the world? Have you lost yours?”

Obama, look­ing pained, lamen­ted that this “is a com­mon theme that folks bring up.” Al­most pro­fess­or­i­ally, he tried to ex­plain to Plante the his­tory of Amer­ic­an dip­lomacy and the real­ity that even the most power­ful coun­try on earth “still does not con­trol everything around the world.” What is hap­pen­ing today, he said, “may seem … an ab­er­ra­tion…. But the truth of the mat­ter is … that this is a big world out there” and con­flicts are in­ev­it­able. Plante, seem­ingly un­per­suaded, re­spon­ded with a sev­en-word fol­low: “Do you think you could’ve done more?”

Clearly, this was not much of a cel­eb­ra­tion of the good news on jobs and not much of a dance over the GOP con­fu­sion. So there was a hint of pres­id­en­tial frus­tra­tion as Obama pre­pared to exit. He sug­ges­ted it might be “use­ful for me to end by just re­mind­ing folks” of the good eco­nom­ic num­bers. “You know, in my first term, if I had a press con­fer­ence like this, typ­ic­ally every­body would want to ask about the eco­nomy and how come jobs wer­en’t be­ing cre­ated and how come the hous­ing mar­ket’s still bad and, you know, why isn’t it work­ing?”

Left un­said was the sug­ges­tion that re­port­ers only ask about bad news. And if re­port­ers were not go­ing to ask about the jobs num­bers, he made a point of re­peat­ing them be­fore he left. They demon­strate, he in­sisted, “that if you stay at it, even­tu­ally we make some pro­gress.”

With that, he sadly noted that no one had wished him a happy birth­day. That eli­cited a chor­us of ques­tions about CIA mis­be­ha­vi­or and deadly dis­eases, prompt­ing a some­what plaint­ive pres­id­en­tial lament: “What happened to the happy birth­day thing?”

What We're Following See More »
TAKING A LONG VIEW TO SOUTHERN STATES
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Source:
‘PITTING PEOPLE AGAINST EACH OTHER’
Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Source:
THE TIME IS NOW, TED
Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Source:
CHRISTIE, BUSH TRYING TO TAKE HIM DOWN
Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Source:
ARE YOU THE GATEKEEPER?
Sanders: Obama Is a Progressive
21 hours ago
THE LATEST

“Do I think President Obama is a progressive? Yeah, I do,” said Bernie Sanders, in response to a direct question in tonight’s debate. “I think they’ve done a great job.” But Hillary Clinton wasn’t content to sit out the latest chapter in the great debate over the definition of progressivism. “In your definition, with you being the gatekeeper of progressivism, I don’t think anyone else fits that definition,” she told Sanders.

×