They're known as the national press corps: We haven't yet watched the full videotape of Obama's press conference in Turkey.
That said, we've heard a lot about it. The caterwauling about Obama's tone has been general on Morning Joe, where the caterwaulin' tends to be good. Meanwhile, we'd heard remarks about the repetitive nature of the press corps' questions.
To watch the full presser, click here.
Today, we took a look at the transcript of the presser. We also watched the videotape of the journalists asking their questions. We thought it was worth recording the questions, which actually were quite repetitive.
Question 1 was basically reasonable, if a bit odd in context. It came from Jerome Cartillier, a reporter from Agence France Presse:
QUESTION ONE (11/16/15): Thank you, Mr. President. One hundred and twenty-nine people were killed in Paris on Friday night. ISIL claimed responsibility for the massacre, sending the message that they could now target civilians all over the world. The equation has clearly changed. Isn't it time for your strategy to change?"Isn't it time for your strategy to change?" In his opening statement, Obama had already spent eight minutes speaking to that very question.
"We have the right strategy and we’re going to see it through." Those were Obama's very last words before he called on Cartillier!
Whatever! Obama went on for seven more minutes, repeating the things he'd already said. He then threw to Margaret Brennan, she of CBS News:
QUESTION TWO: Thank you, Mr. President. A more than year-long bombing campaign in Iraq and in Syria has failed to contain the ambition and the ability of ISIS to launch attacks in the West. Have you underestimated their abilities? And will you widen the rules of engagement for U.S. forces to take more aggressive action?Brennan came dangerously close to asking if Obama was going to change the strategy. As for Questions 3 and 4, we think they went something like this:
QUESTION THREE: Thank you, Mr. President. In the days and weeks before the Paris attacks, did you receive warning in your daily intelligence briefing that an attack was imminent? If not, does that not call into question the current assessment that there is no immediate, specific, credible threat to the United States today? And secondly, if I could ask you to address your critics who say that your reluctance to enter another Middle East war, and your preference of diplomacy over using the military, makes the United States weaker and emboldens our enemies."Why can't we take out these bastards?" Pitifully, that was tough-talking Jim Acosta, embarrassing CNN while asking why Obama doesn't change his strategy.
QUESTION FOUR: Thank you very much, Mr. President. I wanted to go back to something that you said to Margaret earlier when you said that you have not underestimated ISIS’s abilities. This is an organization that you once described as a JV team that evolved into a force that has now occupied territory in Iraq and Syria and is now able to use that safe haven to launch attacks in other parts of the world. How is that not underestimating their capabilities? And how is that contained, quite frankly? And I think a lot of Americans have this frustration that they see that the United States has the greatest military in the world, it has the backing of nearly every other country in the world when it comes to taking on ISIS. I guess the question is—and if you’ll forgive the language—is, Why can't we take out these bastards?
Question 3, from ABC's Jim Avila, at least contained a specific new element. Avila asked Obama to assess our intelligence capabilities regarding such attacks.
After that, Avila basically asked the same question again: Doesn't the attack in Paris mean you should change what you're doing?
Briefly, we'll offer a comment. Everyone has always known, and has always said, that there is no foolproof way to forestall attacks of the type which hit Paris. Everyone has always said that such attacks can, and almost certainly will, occur somewhere at some point.
Last week, one such attack did occur, and the reporters all wanted to know if that means that Obama needs to change his strategy. No matter how many times Obama answered the question, they all wanted to ask it again.
By the time the straight-shooting Acosta dropped his B-bomb, Obama was getting annoyed.
"Well, Jim, I just spent the last three questions answering that very question," Obama said to the highly authentic star, "so I don't know what more you want me to add. I think I've described very specifically what our strategy is, and I've described very specifically why we do not pursue some of the other strategies that have been suggested."
Briefly, Obama semi-answered the question again. Then, he threw to NBC's Ron Allen:
QUESTION FIVE: Thank you, Mr. President. I think a lot of people around the world and in America are concerned because given the strategy that you’re pursuing, and it’s been more than a year now, ISIS’s capabilities seem to be expanding. Were you aware that they had the capability of pulling off the kind of attack that they did in Paris? Are you concerned? And do you think they have that same capability to strike in the United States? And do you think that given all you’ve learned about ISIS over the past year or so, and given all the criticism about your underestimating them, do you think you really understand this enemy well enough to defeat them and to protect the homeland?"All right, so this is another variation on the same question," Obama wearily said. "And I guess—let me try it one last time."
Strictly speaking, those ace reporters didn't all ask exactly the same question. That said, they came remarkably close. It was a bit like the old Mo Udall quip about useless, never-ending congressional hearings:
"Everything has already been said. But not everyone has said it."
It's amazing that Acosta hasn't come in for more criticism for his grandstanding tough-talk. It's bad enough when pols posture that way. As Dan Rather once asked Dick Nixon: Is Acosta now running for office?
Even for these scripted life-forms, it's also a bit amazing to see that much repetition. Are they all just creating videotape for their own network's programs? Is it as simple as that?
On Morning Joe, the hirelings have been very upset with Obama's tone at that conference. As they count their salaries from Trump, they've been refusing to describe the world as it actually is.
"Obama has met the real JV team," they should say. "And it turned out to be us."