Reporter Asks Obama Tough Question!

March 21, 2013

When a reporter asks President Obama a tough question, it’s news in a “man-bites-dog” kind of way, as it happens so infrequently.  So, in the interest of spreading the news, below is an exchange between NBC’s Chuck Todd and the Leader of the Free World.

Note the classic non-answer.  I’ve included what President Obama said, but added what he was likely thinking.

Chuck Todd: Mr. President, I want to follow up a little bit on the peace process. You began your term, your first term, big fanfare, Cairo speech, to talk to the Muslim world, the decision to have a Middle East envoy early, you said you weren’t going to let this slip to your second term. We’re in your second term with the Middle East peace process. What went wrong? Why are we further away from a two-state solution? I know you want to talk more about this tomorrow, but I am curious, what do you believe went wrong? Did you push Israel too hard? What do you wish you would have done differently?

President Obama: So you had to get a polling question in there at the end, huh?

Simple rule: Always answer criticism with criticism.

Chuck, I mean, you’re just incorrigible.

Wow!  A reporter had the nerve to ask me a tough question!  At least he didn’t ask me about Benghazi.

Well, look, the opening premise to your question was that having failed to achieve peace in the Middle East, in my first term, that I must have screwed up somehow.

I thought that treating Israel like a second-rate country, rather than as an ally, was the way to go … and I still do.

And I will tell you, I hope I’m a better president now than when I first came into office, but my commitment was not to achieve a peace deal in my first year, or in my second year or my third year, that would have been nice.

I have absolutely no chance of ever achieving a “peace deal,” and I’m OK with that, as I really don’t give a damn about the Middle East.  If something good happens, I’ll take credit for it.  If something bad happens, it’s George Bush’s fault.

Note that I used “I” and “me” eight times in one sentence.  You’d think by now the press would understand that it’s all about “me,” not about the US of A.

What I said was, I was not going to wait to start on the issue until my second term because I thought it was too important. And that’s exactly what I did.

Come again?  That sentence makes no sense whatsoever.  The Middle East was so important, I did nothing about it for four years?  That’s like saying that Syria is so important, I’ve done nothing about it for two years.  At least my answer makes me sound like I stand by my commitments.

I am absolutely sure that there are a host of things that I could have done that would have been more deft and, you know, would have created better optics. But ultimately, this is a really hard problem.

Did I just say, “created better optics?”  What does that mean?

It has been lingering for over six decades.

It’s not my fault.  It’s not even George Bush’s fault.

And the parties involved have, you know, some profound interests that you can’t spin, you can’t smooth over, and it is a hard slog to work through all of these issues.

I’m sure that if I set my mind to it, I’d be able to spin it, but the Middle East bores me.  Heck, Assad could slaughter all of Syria for all I care.  Not many union members or tort lawyers in Syria.

I will add that both parties also have politics, just like we do back home.


There are a whole bunch of things I would like to do in the United States that I didn’t get done in my first term.

Watch me change the subject.

And I’m sure I could have been more deft there as well, but some of it is just because it is hard. And people disagree.

Like that’s ever stopped me before!

I used the word “hard” four times in one answer.  Maybe Chuck will get the message that this is a hard job.

And it takes, I think, a confluence of both good, diplomatic work, but also timing, serendipity, things falling into place at the right time, the right players feeling that this is the moment to seize it. And my goal here is just to make sure that the United States is a positive force in trying to create those opportunities as frequently as possible and to be as clear as possible as to why we think that this is an important priority.

Let Iran get nukes.  I’ll just blame it on George Bush.


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