Obama hands over podium of White House press room to former President Clinton, and leaves

Various pundits, including Allahpundit, who also has a link to the short version of the video, have various opinions about the meaning of it. I have no idea what is the meaning of it. All I know is, it’s surpassingly strange.

Drudge has this still shot taken from the video:


Here is the full length video. Obama introduces Clinton, saying, “I’m going to let him speak very briefly.” But then Clinton proceeds to speak for ten minutes, until Obama says he has to leave, and leaves, and Clinton continues to speak and take questions for another twenty minutes.

Update: Here’s more on the weird event, from the NYT, from the L-dotters, and from the satirical blogger Iowahawk, who writes:

Ending weeks of speculation and rumors, President-Elect Barack Obama today named Bill Clinton to join his incoming administration as President of the United States, where he will head the federal government’s executive branch. “I am pleased that Bill Clinton has agreed to come out of retirement to head up this crucial post in my administration,” said Obama.

Here is Doug Powers’s take:

A few minutes in, President Obama excused himself because he had to “get to a Christmas party.” Clinton barely batted an eye while continuing to take questions for another half-hour under the “White House” backdrop, leaving onlookers with a palpable “let the adults take over now, Barry” feeling:

- end of initial entry -

Paul K. writes:

I happened to be watching this press conference live and it was one of those startling TV moments.

As Clinton started to address the press, Obama stood to his right, head tilted back, mouth almost smiling, in his familiar pose of cool superiority. However, as Clinton went on at length, I think Obama began to feel foolish standing there. He couldn’t very well tell Clinton that he’d said enough and it was time to go, so I’d guess he decided that the most presidential thing to do was to leave the room on supposedly more pressing business.

There is in Obama’s personality a weak, passive-aggressive element. He often resorts to sarcasm or contemptuous gestures. An example of the first would be telling Hillary, during the campaign, “You’re nice enough,” or telling John McCain “we’re not campaigning anymore” during the healthcare conference in early 2010. An example of the latter would be when he deliberately and childishly scratches his face with a middle finger. In this most recent incident, as he watched Clinton seize control, rather than try to regain control he seemed to decide, “Oh, the hell with it, I’ll just leave.”

LA replies:

That’s not entirely clear to me. When Obama introduced Clinton, he said, “I’m going to let him speak very briefly.” If you stopped there, it would seem that Obama intended to let Clinton speak for a few minutes at most and then re-take command of the press conference and bring it to an end; but that Clinton, being Clinton, went on gabbing at length, leaving Obama with no choice but to decamp if he was to save the shreds of his dignity. But that wasn’t all that Obama said in his introduction of Clinton. He said that Clinton might want to answer questions from the press, and that he, Obama, would have to leave soon for a Christmas party. So clearly Obama, at the very beginning of this event, was setting up a scenario in which he would be leaving and handing the press conference over to Clinton.

I would say that there was nothing inappropriate about a president bringing in an ex-president to speak at the White House in support of the president’s position on legislation. What was wildly inappropriate was Obama’s walking out, leaving the ex-president holding the stage in the White House. At the very least, it was an expression of Obama’s extreme detachment from his responsibilities as president of the United States, and thus from the United States itself.

LA continues:

The closest analogy I can think of to Clinton’s inappropriate one-man performance in the White House press room was when President Reagan was shot and his chief of staff Alexander Hague rushed to the White House press room and stated breathlessly, “I am in charge here.”

Dan R. writes:

In the AP’s uber-PC coverage, there is only the slightest hint that Obama had left the press conference.

LA replies:

I had read this story earlier and completely missed what you saw. The article does bring out that Clinton gave an unusual ex-presidential performance in the White House, but it never actually mentions the main thing and the very embarrassng thing for Obama—that he awkwardly exited, leaving the ex-president acting as though he was the president.

In its beyond-shameless hackery for liberalism and liberal politicians, the AP is in realm by itself.

Paul K. replies:
It’s interesting that you bring up Alexander Haig because I also thought of him when trying to recall comparably odd behavior at a presidential news conference.

I’m not sure how Obama should have handled this incident, but I think that after Clinton’s initial statement Obama could have retaken his position at the lectern, thanked Clinton, made a closing comment, and suggested that the former president would probably be available to answer further questions at some other venue in the near future. However, since Obama doesn’t have a clear sense of command, he might have come off looking insecure and petulant.

It is not surprising that Clinton did not seem aware of how presumptuous he was being. We have learned to expect that from the man. When Obama said he had to leave, Clinton should have wrapped up and left as well.

David B. writes:

Suppose in 1962, former President Truman had visited the White House. Can you picture John F. Kennedy and Harry Truman acting out the scenario Obama and Clinton put on?

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 11, 2010 12:11 AM | Send

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