It's in the job description. As Russell Baker once said, a significant part of the life of a Washington reporter is sitting around outside a closed door, waiting for someone to come out and lie to you.
So when the capital's press corps gets the chance to call a politician on even the flimsiest of fibs, its members tend to cherish the moment.
And that was why President-elect Obama got repeated opportunities at today's press conference to admit that he's had a history with Hillary Rodham Clinton that—Maybe? Just might? Perhaps?—lead to rocky days ahead.
Had not she said all those nasty things about his un-reliability and lack of experience in a crisis during the campaign? Didn't he and his aides reply in kind, alleging that her foreign policy duties as first lady had been limited to funerals and teas?
The gotcha theme went on for too long, but the questions were good-naturedly posed, as was Obama's reply that, sure, in the heat of a campaign a politician can get a bit...excessive...when criticizing a foe.
And Obama sure wasn't making any other news when declining—properly—to say too much about the weekend's awful events in India.
I suppose we endure these somewhat pointless exercises because in every reporter's heart there a hope that once, just once, a politician will answer like this:
"Okay. You got me. You have cleverly recalled, and courageously reminded me, that on repeated occasions during the campaign I knowingly and unfairly characterized my opponent as a slimy worthless pretender to high office, thus revealing my own all-consu ming ambition, shameless disregard for truth and contempt for the voters.
"I can only hope that, by making a clean breast of things under your piercing and steely-eyed interrogation, I can somehow redeem myself. And that you — the mighty defenders of America 's right to know — will judge me mercifully, and accept my humble groveling as a sign of my contrition."
Yeah, right. That will happen soon.