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July 23, 2009

Reactions to Obama's News Conference

President Obama's hour-long news conference began with a nine-minute "mini-speech" on the need for health care reform and was then followed by 10 questions from reporters, nearly all of them on the topic of the night.

On health care, the president seemed a little defensive as he tried to stick to a tight script. It wasn't until the last question that a more animated president offered his views about the controversy surrounding the arrest of Harvard African-American studies professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Tom Shales: "As usual, Obama turned in an admirably effective performance at the news conference, even if it did seem a little too tidy -- and even rehearsed -- for nearly all the reporters to fall in line and stick with the matter at hand rather than pursue their own little butterflies as in many administrations past."

The Fix: "Obama's great gift is the ability to rise above -- or at least to give that impression -- the partisan warfare that dominates Washington to appeal to the common sense of the American public. But, from his opening statement on, it was clear that part of Obama's goal in the press conference was to directly rebut charges leveled against him and his health care plan by Republicans."

Ben Smith: "The appearance was striking by its absence of a move that's long characterized Obama's political career: When in trouble, go big. Faced with a crisis of confidence or with a political furor, he's repeatedly shown an ability to rise above the storm, and to broaden the playing field, as when he turned a flap over his pastor into a meditation on race in America. Now, facing his hardest test as President, Obama chose to go small."


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