It is hard not to praise Barack Obama for his press conference last night, particularly when you compare him to his immediate predecessor. The difference in the level of candor he showed in addressing his presidency's first 100 days were markedly different than President Bush. In discussing the state of the economy, his views on abortion, whether "enhanced interrogation techniques" qualified as torture, concerns about the Taliban in Pakistan and on and on, Obama spoke openly and directly.
When a NY Times' journalist asked him to address the things that surprised him, troubled him, enchanted him, and humbled him, President Obama carefully wrote the request down and thoughtfully addressed each point.
Surprised: Obama professed surprise, and not a little dismay, by "the number of critical issues that appear to be coming to a head all at the same time." Most presidents he said deal with 2 or 3 things and his administration was dealing with 7 or 8 things.
Troubled: Obama said he was "sobered by,"The fact that change in Washington comes slow. That there is still a certain quotient of political posturing and bickering that takes place even when we're in the middle of really big crises." He added, "I would like to think that everybody would say, you know what, let's take a timeout on some of the political games, focus our attention for at least this year, and then we can start running for something next year. And that hasn't happened as much as I would have liked."
Enchanted: He and the press corp laughed at the word choice, but said he was "profoundly impressed and grateful" when he thought of his interactions with the men and women wearing the military uniform of this country from the "top brass to the lowliest private."
Humbled: He said his sense of imposed humility comes from the fact that the presidency, in all its glory, is only "part of a much broader tapestry" in a nation with many different centers of power. "And so I can't just press a button and suddenly have the bankers do exactly what I want, or, you know, turn on a switch and suddenly, you know, Congress falls in line."
For his critics who say that he wants the government to interfere with business he made the point around the government's current role with the automakers that he hoped to help them be competitive and said he really didn't want to be in that position for long because "I've got two wars I've got to run already." He went on to say that the government shouldn't micro-manage these companies it essentially owned, pointing out that he himself is not an auto engineer.
Finally, in summarizing he said "the ship of state is an ocean liner; it's not a speedboat." That he would work as hard in the next hundred days and all the hundreds of days to follow to put the country back on course.