Obama's townhall event at Facebook was quite the thing to behold. To say it was a friendly atmosphere for the president would be something of an understatement. The president enjoyed lots of softballs and applause and was never challenged on his answers. Based on his interaction with a local Texas TV reporter earilier this week -- that's just the way he likes it.
The question is, will the media and concerned voters let him get away with doing everything on his terms for the rest of the campaign? Over at the Examiner, Byron York notes that they weren't so easy on Bush:
Seven years ago, in April 2004, President George W. Bush held a formal news conference in which he was asked, "What would your biggest mistake be…and what lessons have you learned from it?" Bush's hemming and hawing answer -- in several minutes of flailing about, he never managed to come up with a single mistake to cite -- was widely criticized in the days that followed.
On Wednesday, President Obama held a town hall at the headquarters of Facebook in Palo Alto, California, during which he was asked, "If you had to do anything differently during your first four years, what would it be?" Obama, it turns out, is no better at analyzing his own missteps than Bush.
The president began his response haltingly, pointing out that he has actually been in office just two and a half years, and "I'm sure I'll make more mistakes in the next year and a half." But what mistakes has he already made? "There are all sorts of day-to-day issues where I say to myself, oh, I didn't say that right, or I didn't explain this clearly enough," Obama said, "or maybe if I had sequenced this plan first as opposed to that one, maybe it would have gotten done quicker."
But the president mentioned no actual mistakes.
Will the media make a big to do about Obama's non-answer here? We'll see. And again, Obama descended into rather questionable partisanship. True, he did call Paul Ryan a "patriot" -- but that was right before he accused the Ryan plan of balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and destroying Medicare.
Meanwhile, the president still has not offered any detailed explanation of his own Medicare plan to the public, or explained where the rosy growth projection numbers in his deficit reduction plan are coming from. On health care reform he continued to make laughable assertions without being challenged. Improving health sector information technology might help save money, but it's not going to make much of a dent in Medicare's $30 trillion shortfall. And is the president seriously going to keep talking up the VA as a health care model? It's true that the VA does save money -- it's also true that the VA plan doesn't cover anything. The VA plan only covers about 1,300 prescription drugs compared to about 4,300 that are covered by Medicare, which is why aabout a third of all veterans are enrolled in Medicare plans. Does the president really believe the way to lower health care costs is to dramatically reduce our health care options?
I don't know how much longer the president can hold out on asking the tough questions. One hopes that the national press corps is as embarassed by yesterday's puffery and rightfully frustrated by the lack of specifics in Obama's budget plan. The president owes it to the American people to start answering the tough questions.