Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obama press conference: humbled, surprised, enchanted, and troubled

Silvio Berlusconi’s wife has been emailing news organizations complaining about his attempt to fill the European Parliament with hot young women, which she calls “entertainment for the emperor.” Silvio responded that she was being manipulated by left-wing media and said that the hot chicks will be a nice contrast to the “evil-smelling, badly-dressed people who represent certain parties in Parliament.” However, he seems to have dropped several of the showgirl candidates from the official candidate list, retaining only Barbara Matera.

Speaking of entertainment for the emperor, Obama held a prime time press conference to mark his 100th day in office.

He gave some advice to the American people: “So wash your hands when you shake hands. Cover your mouth when you cough.” He’s still trying to wash the Arlen Specter off his hands.

Asked whether waterboarding is torture and whether the Bush administration had sanctioned torture, he answered the first part in the affirmative and wiggled out of answering the second, going only so far as to call waterboarding a “mistake.” He said that “waterboarding violates our ideals and our values,” but evidently letting the people responsible for waterboarding get off scot-free does not violate our ideals and our values.

He said, “we could have gotten this information in other ways, in ways that were consistent with our values, in ways that were consistent with who we are.” Tickling. Merciless, relentless tickling.

Also, remember to always wash your hands after torturing.

That sort of pragmatic talk about what should be a moral issue always makes me nervous, since he didn’t exactly rule out using torture in circumstances in which information can’t be gotten in other ways.

He applied that pragmatism as well to a question about abortion. He said that the Freedom of Choice Act “is not highest legislative priority. I believe that women should have the right to choose. But I think that the most important thing we can do to tamp down some of the anger surrounding this issue is to focus on those areas that we can agree on.” In other words, the real problem, as far as Obama is concerned, is not maintaining women’s ability to exercise their rights but tamping down anger.

He added, “I think that those who are pro-choice make a mistake when they -- if they suggest -- and I don’t want to create straw men here, but I think there are some who suggest that this is simply an issue about women’s freedom and that there’s no other considerations.” There may be other considerations, but women’s freedom, i.e. their constitutional right to abortion, trumps them.

Also, remember to always wash your hands after an abortion.

NYT reporter Jeff Zeleny asked what most surprised, enchanted, humbled and troubled Obama in his first hundred days. He was surprised by the shitstorm that fell on him, enchanted by the military, troubled by how slowly Washington moves, and humbled by not having the god-like powers he expected. “And so I can’t just press a button and suddenly have the bankers do exactly what I want”. He should definitely work on that, cuz that would be cool.

Also humbling: “I don’t know how to create an affordable, well-designed plug-in hybrid.” Yes, Obama has really been a great disappointment.

Also humbling, or possibly enchanting: somehow everyone who becomes president, even a black guy from Chicago, winds up saying “doggone it”: “But I know that, if the Japanese can design an affordable, well-designed hybrid, then, doggone it, the American people should be able to do the same.”

As long as they remember to wash their hands afterwards.

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