Obama had already held a press conference this week and taking questions from reporters was the last thing he wanted to do. “I've been keeping the first lady waiting for about half an hour, so I'm going to take off,” was his response to the first question directed at him.
“Well, I don't want to make her mad,” Clinton joked. “Please go.”
In a town obsessed with comparing Clinton and Obama and 1994 and 2010, the scene came to life Friday. The two men met privately in the Oval Office for over an hour before deciding at the last minute to make an appearance in front of the cameras, sending the few reporters who were still at the White House late Friday afternoon scrambling. Obama spoke for all of 90 seconds.
“I thought, given the fact that he presided over as good an economy as we've seen in our lifetimes, that it might useful for him to share some of his thoughts,” he said before turning the podium over to Clinton. “I'm going to let him speak very briefly, and then I've actually got to go over and do some – just one more Christmas party. So he may decide he wants to take some questions, but I wanted to make sure that you guys heard from him directly.”
“First of all, I feel awkward being here, and now you're going to leave me all by myself?” Clinton joked, getting a smile out of his successor.
But the former president couldn’t get enough. Clinton fielded nearly a dozen questions, twice as many as Obama took during his briefing room press conference on Tuesday. He knew the reporters by name – calling out Ann Compton of ABC and George Condon of the National Journal with ease. Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, repeatedly tried in vain to rein him in. (“Gibbs will call ‘last question,’” Obama informed reporters as he left for the party.)
But even before Obama left Clinton alone, the former president was the center of attention. One of the cable television shots had completely blocked Obama out, even as he stood by Clinton’s side, his arms crossed, nodding occasionally while his predecessor delved into his thinking on the tax cuts compromise and went on to throw his support behind Senate ratification of the new START treaty with Russia
Twitter was a buzz during this press conference. My twitter feed is filled with snarky comments regarding his swift departure from the press conference and the possible reasons for it.
Given the obviouse backlash that followed this presser, I have to wonder: what in the world was he thinking? He has to know how this would look. This makes him look like he doesn’t really care much about this issue at all or that he doesn’t take the office of the presidency that seriously.
Alternate headline: Obama Tells America That He’s Just Not That Into You
Update: Here a few of those snarky comments that I mentioned above:
"I think Barack Obama just said "F It!" and handed the presidency over to Bill Clinton."
"Remember when folks were worried that President Hillary would give too much influence to Bill? So yeah."
"The current President looks very satisfied that the former President is doing his job for him. I've never seen a stranger spectacle."