President Obama Plays 10 Questions with The Press at BP Conference: Who Got Called On, And How They Did.


The Obama-BP Press conference just ended! You’ll hear all about his remarks everywhere else sometime between now and tomorrow afternoon when something else has gone wrong. But what about the game of Ten Questions that Obama had planned to play with the press while he was in the room with them? Want to know who got to ask what questions, and how everyone did? Right this way:

1. Jennifer Loven of the Associated Press asks if Obama’s done enough. Obama asserts that they’re doing everything in their power (after already having set himself up with the fact that BP has better technology than the government does).

Grade: C. Never go first. You’ll get the most underwhelemed, most relaxed answer. Which Loven did.

2. ABC News’ Jake “The Octagon” Tapper: “How can you say that everything that can be done is being done with all these experts and officials saying that’s not true?”

Obama answered that we can always do better, and that they’re evaluating every idea that comes their way, essentially writing off huge portions of science nerds who feel like they’re not being heard.

Grade: B. The Octagon took too long to get around to the end of his question, but pinned Obama with he figure-four-leg-lock that are the unheard, inarticulate masses of science nerds with good ideas that will never be heard.

3. NBC News’ Chuck Todd asked about comparisons to Katrina, and Obama responded that he’d leave the Katrina comparisons to “you guys,” meaning the press. Todd shouted something at BP from the seats which wasn’t mic’d, and it looked a little hostile. Remember that time Chuck Todd told everyone that Obama has “disdain” for the press? Yeah, that was three days ago.

Grade: C-. Todd tried to trot out a dumb press line that would be compelling but insubstantial. Obama smacked it down, and Todd’s hostility showed itself.

4. McClatchy’s Steve Thomma asked if Obama really feels he’s acted with the sense of urgency that this thing was as bad as it was from day one. “There was a lack of anticipating what the worst case scenarios would be. And that’s a problem.”

Grade: B+! McClatchy gets the first good resignation towards guilt from Obama in the room. Score for him.

5. Chip Reid (CBS News) Asked a two-parter. First was about the resignation of Elizabeth Birnbaum (the head of the Minerals Management Service), and the second was about whether or not it was fair to blame the Bush Administration for being cozy with Big Oil. Obama noted that he should’ve taken care of Big Oil and BP being cozy together, and that he’d just found out about Birnbaum today.

Grade: B. A two-parter, but got Obama to make a concession that they should’ve been shutting down more of Bush’s fuckups, and more importantly, any grace period that existed for correcting Bush’s wide-reaching fuckups for Obama’s administration might’ve just ended.

6. Bloomberg’s Juliana Goldman asked how much we can trust BP when they keep on lying about the numbers behind the leak. Obama: “They want his thing capped as badly as anybody does…It is a legitimate concern to question whether BP’s interests in being fully forthcoming about the extent of the damage aligns with the interest of the public.” A dodge! Just because they care doesn’t mean they’re not full of shit!

Grade: B-. A good question that got skirted without enough hostility to chase it down, which she should have.

7. “Mama Hen” Helen Thomas (Hearst). Asked why we were still in Afghanistan. In the middle of the BP presser? Why the hell not. It’s Helen Thomas! She could ask him what he’s smoking these days and get away with it. Everyone on Twitter was right to think this was funny:

Grade: C+. First part was great, second part, not topical, and opened the floor to other wacky, dumb, non-topical conversation.

8. Jackie Calmes “Like Bombs” of The New York Times Hit him with quite a few questions! Jackie went balls out on it, asking him why the reforms at MMS hadn’t been made already (and Obama conceded that he didn’t make them fast enough). Calmes continued to further this line of questioning, asking incredulously about the “resignation slash firing of Birnbaum” which Obama nervously laughed at and noted that she was assuming it was a firing, it wasn’t, Ken Salazar was in meetings when this all went down.

Grade: B+! Way to take him to town on the sketchy politics behind Birnbaum leaving.

9. Macarena Vidal of E.F.E. (Spanish News Agency): Asked Obama about the National Guard and the ongoing situation in Arizona! Obama noted his displeasure at the situation (but looked pleased and way more comfortable to be handling this question than another one about BP).

Grade: D. Way to fuck up an important line of questioning the New York Times beautifully set up for you. Who do you think you are? Helen Thomas? Obama’s called on Vidal before, because she’s probably an easy press adversary, and Spanish agencies don’t get good play in the White House press pool.

10. Major Garret of Fox News Asked whether or not the president was comfortable with the imagery of the federal government on the neck of BP, naturally, and followed with a second question about Joe Sestak. Joe Sestak? Obama responded that the federal government is on this thing, and that the federal government in “constantly thinking” about how to not let this happen again.

Grade: C-. A dumbass-sounding question that could’ve been better articulated, but this is the business Fox News is in: “Boot-On-Neck” type language that Obama could be dismissive of for how stupid the line of questioning is.

Bottom Line: We should all look at Jackie Calmes’ BP coverage, which she’s obviously passionate about. Jake Tapper is shiny. The guy from Fox News is a lug. The Spanish news agencies are just happy to be there. Chuck Todd needs Obama to buy him a beer. Helen Thomas needs to be reminded which presser she’s at. The Ballso of McClatchy shouldn’t be underestimated! Finally, yes, Obama does hate the press, as he should, if they’re doing their jobs, which for the most part, they did today, and made the most of their ten questions.