No, but maybe a little worse. As Glenn Reynolds might put it, “they told me that if I voted for John McCain, I’d get a third term of George W. Bush. Oh, that it were true!”
President Obama, who pledged to establish the most open and transparent administration in history, on Monday surpasses his predecessor’s record for avoiding a full-fledged question-and-answer session with White House reporters in a formal press conference.
President George W. Bush’s longest stretch between prime-time, nationally televised press conferences was 214 days, from April 4 to Nov. 4, 2004. Mr. Obama tops that record on Monday, going 215 days – stretching back to July 22, according to records kept by CBS Radio’s veteran reporter Mark Knoller.
The president has seemingly shunned formal, prime-time sessions since his last disastrous presser, when he said police in Cambridge, Mass., “acted stupidly” by arresting a Harvard professor who broke into a home that turned out to be his own. The off-the-cuff comment took over the news cycle for a week, overshadowing his push for health care reform, and culminated in a White House “Beer Summit,” where the president hosted white police officer James Crowley and the black Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr.
“He does seem a little snakebit on the whole presser thing,” said Julie Mason, a longtime White House reporter and board member of the White House Correspondents’ Association.
“At his last big press conference in July, he lost control of the message with his response to the Gates question, and then returns six months later with an unannounced, five-question avail in the briefing room – on a snow day. Was it something we said?”
To be fair to the President, as the story indicates, he does engage in some surprise availability press conferences that are not counted. And of course, it comes as no surprise that the press does not count the surprise availability instances; it wants more access to the President. Still, it is worth noting that “the most open and transparent administration in history” is anything but.