I was distracted by other things during the President's 100-day press conference last night, when it was running live, so I missed it altogether. I did find a way to record it on a later re-run, and am watching it as I write this morning. What impresses me most is that he does actually listen to the questions and answer them. Unlike most politicians, who manage to twist a question in such a way that they can provide a neatly potted answer; they listen to the question that they want to hear, rather than the one that's asked. It seems to me that Obama listens to the question carefully, takes it in, and thinks it through aloud, on his feet, as he comes up with his answer. And when he speaks, he seems to be fully in command of a vast range of information, and draws on it with confidence and ease. You can see a finely tuned intelligence at work.
Clearly, there are issues on which he speaks with extreme care--more care than some of his listeners out here in the public sphere would wish. I myself could wish he had been more forthright on the topic of torture, and had appeared less compromising about the prosecution of those who permitted or practiced it in our name. On this subject, the measured quality that seemed admirable in addressing other issues seemed unfortunately evasive. On the other hand, I understand that complex legal and political implications make such circumspection inevitable. It is impossible for a United States president to blurt out things that I, as a private citizen, can pronounce as if they were self-evident truths.
All in all, it was an impressive performance. Compared to what we were subjected to in the last administration during Bush's few press conferences, this event was a triumph of both language and content. The derisive, dismissive attitude of the last occupant of the White House in response to the media was an embarrassment to us all. His resort to simplistic ideology as sufficient reason for every action and intention was, if not laughable, exasperating. Last night's event left me feeling, still, that we are in good hands. The man is not infallible--but at least he knows this himself.