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Obama beats record for press conferences
In the 22 days since winning the White House, President-elect Barack Obama has taken 22 questions from reporters and has done two sit-down television interviews.
The Democrat held his fourth press conference since Nov. 4 in Chicago Wednesday morning — his third in as many days — an unprecedented bit of access for reporters who have grown accustomed to President Bush’s infrequent moments taking questions and already surpassing the last four presidents-in-waiting.
Mr. Obama has beat his four predecessors in number of post-election, pre-inauguration press conferences, and is inheriting a troubled nation. With one Cabinet post officially named, he is working at a faster clip than former President Bill Clinton.
In 2000, Mr. Bush gave one press conference as president-elect, and not until Dec. 19, because the results of his victory over Vice President Al Gore were so long in dispute. As president-elect in 1992, Mr. Clinton held three pre-inauguration press conferences.
George H.W. Bush held one press conference as president-elect, on Nov. 11, 1988.
Ronald Reagan also held one press conference before his 1981 inauguration. He called the major press conference to trot out his Cabinet nominees, but didn’t show up himself.
In his four press conferences, Mr. Obama has called on 22 reporters, including Lynn Sweet from his hometown paper, the Chicago Sun-Times, who asked four questions and he answered each one. He took six questions Monday, just four questions Tuesday and three on Wednesday.
Some are grumbling that Obama transition aides preselected the reporters who would be allowed questions.
He’ll likely get another crack at it early next week when he names Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state and members of his national security team.
Mr. Obama frequently has made big announcements in front of a video camera instead of speaking to members of the press. His decision to become the first candidate to decline public financing was communicated first to supporters in a Web video. Obama aides spoke to reporters about the news, but the candidate did not.
This is the most access reporters have had to Mr. Obama in weeks, as he repeatedly declined to answer questions shouted at him on the tarmac and did not hold press conferences in the final stretch of the campaign.
Mike Madden, Washington correspondent for Salon.com, said it is not helpful the Obama transition makes its major announcements from Chicago instead of Washington because that makes it more difficult for news organizations who spent most of their travel budgets covering the campaign.
“I’d be going to the press conferences and trying to ask questions, but instead I’m watching on TV because it’s not worth the airfare just to maybe get a question in,” he said.
Mr. Obama so far has fielded two questions each from the Associated Press, NBC, CNN and Reuters news agency. He also has taken one question each from ABC, CBS, Bloomberg News, McClatchy, the Chicago ABC affiliate, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, New York Times, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, National Public Radio and USA Today. He has called on all the networks except Fox News.
At each press conference, Mr. Obama had a pre-written list of reporters at his podium, pausing to look down at it and read the name before looking up to find the reporter in the room.
About the Author
Christina Bellantoni is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times in Washington, D.C., a post she took after covering the 2008 Democratic presidential campaigns. She has been with The Times since 2003, covering state and Congressional politics before moving to national political beat for the 2008 campaign. Bellantoni, a San Jose native, graduated from UC Berkeley with ...
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