President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to the White House briefing room on Tuesday to carry a plateful of six cupcakes topped by a birthday candle to Helen Thomas, the veteran journalist with whom he shares an August 4 birthday.
Tales from the Trail
It’s one thing for fans gathering in Los Angeles to go ga-ga over the late “King of Pop,” but the extensive media coverage of Michael Jackson and his death has one Washington insider screaming “ENOUGH ALREADY.”
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs took heat on Wednesday over the use of what one reporter called a “designated hitter” to ask President Barack Obama about protests in Iran.
“What kind of a message do you think that sends to the American people and to the world about the kind of free flow and pure questioning that’s been expected at presidential news conferences?” CBS White House correspondent Peter Maer asked.
Iran’s disputed election and the violent crackdown on the huge protests that followed dominated Obama’s fourth news conference on Tuesday.
But Maer and other reporters objected to Obama taking an arranged question from the Huffington Post website.
“What led to your decision to plant a designated hitter right here to ask the president a question,” Maer asked.
White House aides had arranged for Nico Pitney from the Huffington Post to attend the press conference and Obama called on him second, after answering an earlier question on Iran.
“I know that there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet. Do you have a question?” Obama asked.
Pitney then relayed a question from an Iranian who wanted to know under what conditions Obama would accept the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the disputed poll.
Obama dodged that but said “a sizable percentage of the Iranian people themselves, spanning Iranian society, consider this election illegitimate. It’s not an isolated instance, a little grumbling here or there. There is significant questions about the legitimacy of the election.”
Gibbs defended the White House’s decision to invite Pitney to the press conference to ask a question. He insisted the White House had no idea “what the exact question would be.”
He called the exchange a “very powerful message” of press freedoms Iranians do not currently enjoy in their own county, rather than an example of contrived newsmaking.
The Huffington Post and other liberal outlets often accused former President George W. Bush of planting questioners in news conferences to ask softball questions.
Gibbs left open the possibility that Obama could use the same tactic again, saying the president thought it was important to try to take a question indirectly from someone in Iran.
“I won’t make any apologies for that,” Gibbs said.
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U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s 12-day vacation in Hawaii exposed tensions with the media that presage a possible combative relationship between a Democratic Obama White House and mainstream U.S. news organizations, which were often accused by Republicans of being too soft on him during the election campaign.
President-elect Barack Obama gave a wide-ranging interview to the Chicago Tribune , offering his hometown daily a scoop that forced other journalists to choose which angle to highlight in their reports on it. Reuters chose to lead with his comment that the most pressing problem right now was to "stabilize the patient" and save the U.S. economy from losing millions of jobs. I agree this is the key message he sent in this interview and deserved to take top billing. So I was surprised to see how many news organisations went with a different angle.
CHICAGO- Call it the e-fireside chat.
U.S. President-elect Barack Obama plans to continue his close links with the Internet by making the weekly radio address into a YouTube video that he will post on his Web site www.change.gov, aides said on Friday.
The press pool covering him sure hasn’t.
As he delves deeply into planning his transition to the White House, Obama has been keeping a low-profile in Chicago, after his high-profile visit to the White House on Monday.
ABOARD “STRAIGHT TALK AIR” – Republican John McCain, who basically cut off contact with his traveling press corps in the last two months of the presidential race, walked to the back of his campaign plane on Tuesday to say goodbye.
WASHINGTON – What a popular guy.
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama is so popular that some “tough decisions” had to be made about which members of the press corps would fly on his plane during the final days of the campaign.
Off the plane this weekend will be the Dallas Morning News, New York Post and Washington Times. Among those taking seats will be staffers from the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune, according to a campaign official.
Flying with the candidate is crucial because it expedites getting to campaign events, eliminating the hassles of commercial travel, as well as provides access to the candidate or other officials on the plane.
“Unfortunately, demand for seats on the plane during this final weekend has far exceeded supply, and because of logistical issues we made the decision not to add a second plane,” said Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
“This means we’ve had to make hard and unpleasant for all concerned decisions about limiting some news organizations and in some cases not being in a position to offer space to news organizations altogether,” she said.
A campaign official said adding a second plane would have cut a city a day from the schedule and that also larger news outlets were facing new limits on the number of seats on the plane, such as for columnists and extra correspondents.
Conservative outlet DrudgeReport highlighted the fact that all three newspapers losing their spots on the plane endorsed Republican rival John McCain for president.