First 100 Days: Prime Time President

With a serious demeanor throughout his prime time news conference nearly 2-thirds of the way through his First 100 Days, President Barack Obama capped a week of public outreach to explain his actions and thoughts on the economic crisis, the budget, energy, health care, education, and the trouble on the Mexican border. The tone was sober, different from two of the other outreach moments in the past week, the "60 Minutes" interview and the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno." He was criticized for his humor or attempts at humor at those two appearances.
Silliest question of the news conference night? When the President was asked why he isn't asking the public to sacrifice.
Most intriguing questions and answers? One on race, one on how he wrestled with the moral question in his stem cell decision. I suspect the caution or change in speech pattern in the answer to the latter will be fodder for criticism.
Most combative Q&A? Over anger over AIG.The President shut down one reporter's repeated question about why he took longer than NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to express anger at the AIG bonuses. President Obama fired off, "I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak."  Good response, however, some may interpret that as saying that Cuomo did not or does not know what he is talking about.
Style/Process Observations: A different teleprompter in use which kept the President's face focused center. Did you notice Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel standing to the side, along one wall, and after the last question, he was looking at the President while holding one finger over his mouth. Sort of a, wrap it up, Mr. President signal?
In the news conference, the President explained his actions have focused on creating jobs, tax cuts in most taxpayers paychecks, helping homeowners, restarting the flow of credit, and buying up the toxic assets of some institutions. Says President Obama, "We will make sure banks have money to lend." As for the AIG bonuses, "I'm as angry as anybody." No joking this time. But, he also sought to stem unbridled anger when he said we must not "demonize everyone who seeks to make a profit."
The President did not directly with a "yes" or "no" answer the question about whether he would sign a budget that did not contain cap and trade or a middle-class tax cut.
He clearly explained his philosophy on the U.S. economy that increasing the debt now is necessary to make the fundamental changes needed in the economy, such as energy and health care, or, "We won't grow."
This serious, careful approach by the President in his news conference comes as he has in the last 2 or 3 weeks tried to be more publicly positive, but with mixed results. His appearance with Jay Leno will be more remembered for his insensitive remark about "Special Olympics" than about what he wanted the appearance to  be remember for. Most people will forgive that remark. There is nothing in his history that suggests he meant it the way it came out. Nonetheless, the remark should be taken seriously by his administration as a warning. With all that's going on and with the Presidency this young, it is likely the comment will settle to a world of "not forgotten, but we've moved on." But, in bad times, mixed signals and doubt can destroy. All it took was one protective, swimming rabbit to seal the image of Jimmy Carter as weak. Democrats should admit that if George Bush had made the comment, they would be all over him. Republicans need to understand that Republicans, because they are for smaller government, sometimes appear as if they do not support challenged people. I have known many Special Olympians and their families. I know their good hearts are likely to forgive an unfortunate remark, but many of them are nonetheless upset. We would all do well to adopt the Special Olympics motto: "Let me win.  But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

Here's a question. What does what does AIG really stand for? Is it:

              American International Group

              Ain't Income Great

              Always Increasing Greed

              Amok Inexcusable Graft

Well, don't look to AIG's Manhattan headquarters for the answer. The name's been taken off the building.

Steve Highsmith is a political analyst for NBC10. He is covering President Barack Obama's first 100 days in office for Steve also hosts NBC10 Live @ Issue every Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

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