President Barack Obama met the White House press corps today for an exchange that was, not unremarkably, devoid of news. It did, however, make me miss Johnny Carson.
Carson, the longtime host of NBC's The Tonight Show for those of you part of the iPhone generations, opened each show with a monologue full of topical humor, much of it political. It was a sort of national thermometer or barometer: If "Johnny" talked about it you could be sure everyone else was talking about it too. Moreover he was an equal opportunity humorist, skewering Democrats and Republicans alike with equal vigor unlike today's "late nighters," who all seem to be in the tank to some level or another in favor of the current president and his policies.
Monday's Obama press conference would have provided a lot of fodder for the monologue. The arrogance, the egoism, the ears … the president made himself a target for at least a few jokes if not outright ridicule with his dismissive, almost contemptuous handling of a bunch of reporters most all of whom are already under his spell. Maybe there's some kind of dominance/submission thing going on but most of the reporters refused to ask tough questions and the president didn't answer the ones that were with any kind of candor or clarity.
It's not that there isn't a lot going on. The country has just surmounted one fiscal cliff, the ramifications of which are still being felt, with at least one more on the immediate horizon. Most Americans saw their taxes jump today, unexpectedly, and after the president spent most of the 2012 campaign promising that they wouldn't go up as long as you weren't a married millionaire making more than $250,000 per year.
He's got at least two and perhaps three cabinet nominations in trouble, a major scandal developing at the Environmental Protection Agency over outgoing administrator's Lisa Jackson use of a fake identity—not a just a pseudonym or alias but a genuine, 100 percent, honest-to-goodness fake identity—to conduct official business, and continuing questions about just what happened at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, including the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Colorado's legalized pot, Democrats from the left coast to the right are talking openly about confiscating weapons, and Obama's nominee for defense secretary has yet to satisfactorily explain what he meant by remarks he made against gays and Jewish groups.
So, again, it's not like there's anything to ask about or nothing for the president to talk about. Yet that's exactly what the country got out of the press conference. Nothing. It would nice, just once, if we got even a bit of the transparency and openness promised in 2008, instead of the continued refrains coming out of the Nixon songbook.