Respect the President: sedem non sedentem

I’m a bit late commenting on this, but if you want your news fresh, pick a blogger with fewer small children.

Politico got its feathers all ruffled over this:

President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to the White House press corps Thursday night, but got agitated when he was faced with a substantive question.

Asked how he could reconcile a strict ban on lobbyists in his administration with a deputy defense secretary nominee who lobbied for Raytheon, Obama interrupted with a knowing smile on his face.

“Ahh, see,” he said, “I came down here to visit. See this is what happens. I can’t end up visiting with you guys and shaking hands if I’m going to get grilled every time I come down here.”

Pressed further by the Politico reporter about his Pentagon nominee, William J. Lynn III, Obama turned more serious, putting his hand on the reporter’s shoulder and staring him in the eye.

“Alright, come on” he said, with obvious irritation in his voice. “We will be having a press conference at which time you can feel free to [ask] questions. Right now, I just wanted to say hello and introduce myself to you guys – that’s all I was trying to do.”

Personally, I think it was pretty rude of the reporter to press the point. If the visit was an impromptu social call, the President stopping by to welcome the reporters to his White House and learn who’s who in the White House press corps, then it wasn’t the time to grill him about appointments. And it seemed to me that his first response was gracious enough, and when the reporter wouldn’t take the hint, the President was a bit more emphatic, but still not rude or out of line.

Drudge headlined the story, and Hannity made a fuss about it on his show (which I like less in its post-Colmes incarnation), but I’m still scratching my head. Why is this big news? Why can’t the President make a friendly visit to the press room without being forced into a press conference on some reporter’s timetable rather than his own? Transparency means you ought to answer questions, but not that you have to answer them where and when some Politico reporter says. The President is the President, and he deserves some respect. I’m just being fair and consistent here. I’d have thought the reporter was rude if Bush had been the President in question, and I think he was rude now that it’s Obama in the White House.

Lest you, gentle readers, suspect I’m becoming an Obama Mama after the fact, rest assured that I still deplore most of his policy positions, but think it’s important to criticize him for appropriate reasons, and not for trivial ones.

The obscure Latin post title, for those who may be curious, quotes the sixth century Byzantine Emperor Justinian, who qualified his censure of Pope Vigilius by emphasizing that he condemned non sedem, sed sedentem (“not the See but the one who sits in it”).

Comments 9

  1. Grue in the Attic wrote:

    “Not the SEAT”, you mean? šŸ˜‰

    Posted 26 Jan 2009 at 4:53 pm
  2. Brigette Russell wrote:

    Literally it means “seat” but in Church Latin it gets translated as “see” sort of the way “cathedral” comes from “cathedra” which means literally “chair” or “throne.”

    But seeing as how the Left has canonized Obama, I think See is pretty appropriate.

    Posted 26 Jan 2009 at 5:58 pm
  3. Grue in the Attic wrote:

    Ah, that would explain it. Never took Latin.

    Posted 26 Jan 2009 at 7:49 pm
  4. MIT Mommy wrote:

    Since I have three small children, I prefer my news stale, cold, and having sat on the counter for at least a few hours, just like my coffee.

    Oh, and yes, being a reporter does not give you license to be rude.

    I’m not too worried about you becoming an Obama Mama. I won’t lose sleep.

    Posted 27 Jan 2009 at 3:49 am
  5. Julia wrote:

    i’m no Obama Mama either, but I agree with you on this one. The reporter was rude and Obama did nothing wrong. Now about his wanting to give away a pile of my hard-earned money OTOH…

    Posted 27 Jan 2009 at 5:39 am
  6. Brigette Russell wrote:

    I hear you on the coffee thing, MIT Mommy. If I drank half as much coffee as I make every day, I’d be a caffeine-wracked wreck. I can’t count the number of cups that get cold and then poured out when some kid emergency crops up.

    Posted 27 Jan 2009 at 5:43 am
  7. Grue in the Attic wrote:

    I guess I have no room to talk, I go through about four bottles/six cans of caffienated soda and two or three cans of Arizona tea a day. I dislike coffee, but if I am anything it is NOT a Morning Person… without at least a Coke, Dr. Pepper or Pepsi on the bus every morning I’d fall asleep at my desk within ten minutes or so.

    And that’s after spending the hour- to hour-and-a-half bus ride snoozing with my head leaning against the window. šŸ˜›

    Posted 27 Jan 2009 at 9:45 pm
  8. OregonMuse wrote:

    iā€™m no Obama Mama either, but I agree with you on this one. The reporter was rude and Obama did nothing wrong.

    Quite right. This all started years ago when that professional idiot Sam Donaldson made it his practice to yell questions at President Reagan every time he saw him, no matter the place or the circumstances. So what if you’re a rude SOB if you get some micro-scoop or quote for tomorrow’s story?

    And thus was public discourse in America further degraded.

    Posted 28 Jan 2009 at 4:54 pm
  9. Brigette Russell wrote:

    Oregon Muse, welcome to the blog, and thanks for commenting. Clicked on your website link but it took me to a “page not found.” If there’s a typo in the link, feel free to e-mail me and I’ll correct it so it links.

    BTW, you’re right about Sam Donaldson.

    Posted 30 Jan 2009 at 7:15 pm

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