It was more conference than news, according to pundits like David Brooks and Mark Shields on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
I was listening on car radio, thinking much the same thing.
Hm…soundbite rhetoric, nothing new so far. Economic stimulus package
better sooner than later, jobs at stake, Americans are hurting, first
order of business after inauguration, good economic adivsory team
assembled behind him (though I noticed later on the replay that Rahm
Emanuel took a prominent position just off his shoulder and directed
Joe Biden where to stand, unprecedented prominence for a chief of
So listening to this on radio, a few things came across more clearly
perhaps than if watching on television. First, while following a text,
it was scripted and sounded fairly presidential. When he went to
questions from the press corps, the impromptu answers were a bit
halting and searching for the right words.
When someone asked him if he had spoken with any former presidents
yet, he answered yes, all the former presidents who are living…..It was
an awkward moment (yeah, obviously the only ones living are available
to consult), producing an awkward chuckle from the press. An awkward
moment that had to be filled, and was quickly when Obama followed
up with a surprising wisecrack:
“I didn’t want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances.”
I was startled, hearing that. Not only is it inappropriate and unbecoming, but…..wasn’t it Hillary Clinton who did that?
Friday night stories on ABC’s World News and the NBC
Nightly News ran a clip of President-elect Barack Obama’s gaffe at his
press conference in which he related he had talked to all of the
“living” former Presidents, as “I didn’t want to get into a Nancy
Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances.” But both newscasts
failed to note it was Hillary Clinton, not Nancy Reagan, who reportedly
had seances in the White House. ABC’s Jake Tapper called Obama’s
comment “a lighter moment” while NBC’s Lee Cowan described it as “the
only awkward moment of his first meeting with the press.”
FNC’s Jim Angle, however, managed to point out in his 6 PM EST
story: “It was actually Hillary Clinton who was reported to have
engaged in seance-like sessions in which she communed with the spirit
of Eleanor Roosevelt.”
Some foreign press reported it as well.
“President-elect Barack Obama called Nancy Reagan today
to apologise for the careless and off-handed remark he made during
today’s press conference,” Obama transition team spokeswoman Stephanie
Cutter said in a statement a few hours after the briefing on Friday.
“The president-elect expressed his admiration and affection for Mrs
Reagan that so many Americans share, and they had a warm conversation,”
Obama, known for his gift of oratory on the campaign trail, seemed
out of character when he made the gaffe at his first press conference
since winning the presidency, after he was asked if he had spoken with
any former living presidents to prepare for the job.
He could have just laughed at the comment that he’d spoken with all
the living presidents, without covering it at the expense of a former
first lady. In fact, the wrong former first lady. Even The Age didn’t note that it was actually a Hillary Clinton thing.