This post isn't necessarily about new transparency policies, but watching Obama's press conference tonight, I was reminded that even the old-fashioned forms of government communications are extremely difficult, so maybe we should cut the administration a little slack as they find their footing.
- Press conferences are not the venue for complexity. It's just too hard to talk about a truly complex issue in real-time, with cameras rolling and millions of people watching. You can't deviate from your notes because the risk of saying something a little off is just too high.
- The press asks the right questions, but we need a forum to really push on follow-up questions. Obama has the ability to cut off a reporter anytime, and move on to another question if he wants. This is totally fine by me, because I can see that holding a press conference is so damn challenging that he needs to be able to move on when he's done with a subject. But in the bigger picture, we do need a way to push for nuanced answers to hard questions, and to keep pushing until we get a real answer.
- Commitment to transparency or not, even Obama isn't going to answer yes or no questions on the spot. You know what? I wish he would. One of the best moments in the Change.gov "Open for Questions" responses, was when the now-press-secretary Robert Gibbs gave a one-word answer about "don't ask, don't tell."
- Obama doesn't seem willing to challenge the format, at least for now. Obama could try to make the argument that press conferences are a case of gotcha journalism, and that noone is really looking for answers, they are looking for mistakes. The only way he can have a complex discussion is by first making it ok to make mistakes. Instead, we saw a pretty standard press conference.
- He comes across as pretty stubborn when he gets worked up. It was great to see Obama admit a mistake on the Tom Daschle front this past week. After all, admitting mistakes is a sign of self-awareness and careful thinking. However, I was a little disappointed that today he was unwilling to admit that getting zero republican votes in the House was due to mistakes on his part. Instead, he blamed Republicans, which isn't going to make them any more likely to become "bipartisan".
- He did call on the Huffington Post, which is a good sign for engagement with new media journalism