Farewell to Jay Carney, who ably served President Barack Obama during his three years as White House press secretary, an exhausting job. Before he leaves the West Wing for the final time, he should perform one more valuable public service: Tell his boss to conduct his own news conferences.
In his first five years in office, Obama had fewer news conferences than any president since Ronald Reagan — fewer than two a month, on average.
Of course, the White House press secretary shouldn’t be expected to have all the answers — nor should the president, for that matter. But there are questions a spokesman can duck a president can’t. And there are answers a president can give a spokesman can’t.
In parliamentary systems, prime ministers must publicly debate their positions with opponents in legislative chambers. But Americans have no venue — except for news conferences — where they can see a president respond to criticisms. By forcing the leader to answer difficult questions, news conferences help the public keep the president accountable. While it’s true Obama has had many one-on-one sit-down interviews, those are no substitute for regular back-and-forth sessions with all White House reporters.
At various points in his presidency, the president blamed his political problems on poor communication. If Americans understood what his administration has been doing, Obama suggested, they would support them. If that’s true, more news conferences would benefit not only the public, but the president, too.
— Bloomberg News