Media Impotent Following Up On Obama At Last Night's Press Conference

Reporters failed to properly follow up at the president's second prime-time press conference.

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By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

The White House press corps needs to work on its follow-up questions. The reporters sounded, way too often, like Tommy Smothers last night.

Tommy was the dumb brother on the left who would come up with some outlandish statement, and then be corrected by the smarter brother, Dick.

The brothers would get their laugh as Tommy manfully struggled to cope with his embarrassment and concoct a clever comeback, which usually was..."Oh yeah?"

Followed by (sullen, with resentment), "Mom always liked you best."

A follow-up question needs to be on target, to correct a misstatement or point out that the president dodged the initial query.

The reporter's job is to elicit information, not to puff up their chest and preen for the viewers. Asking the same question over again, this time in umbrage, only allows a skilled pol like Obama to play further variations on the talking points, and chew up the clock.

CNN's Ed Henry had a good follow-up last night, when Obama tried to slide past a question about the AIG flap. Henry would not let him, and elicited a tart and memorable response from the otherwise unflappable president.

But too often the follow-uppers sounded like Tommy Smothers.

Reporter: "Critics say you are spending the country into the poor house and financial catastrophe looms."

Obama: "I hear those criticisms and I disagree. In the long run, the investments we make now in jobs, education, health care reform and energy will revitalize the economy and bring prosperity."

Reporter: "I have a follow up. (`Oh yeah?') But critics say you are spending the country into the poor house and financial catastrophe looms. (`Mom always liked you best.')"

Obama: (Smiles.)

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