MSNBC’s O’Donnell Hails Obama Presser: ‘More Confidence...Than Any President’

On Wednesday night, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell began his show by cheering President Obama’s news conference performance and declared he “demonstrated more confidence at the podium than any president in the history of televised presidential press conferences, more even than Kennedy.”  

The MSNBC host continued to cheer Obama’s defense of the Iranian nuclear deal and how “we saw a president unafraid of any question, certain, that he was ready with a powerful answer to any objection raised about the deal with Iran.” 

After he played several clips of Obama answering multiple questions on the controversial deal, O’Donnell praised the president's ability to supposedly sell the deal to the public: 

[T]here’s never been a moment where the President just got to the point where on the big issue of the day that he was out there trying to sell, highly controversial, facing a lot of opposition. He just said, is there -- are there anymore objections? Any more questions anybody can possibly think of about this? Because he was ready to take them all on. I have never seen that moment before.

Former CBS News reporter Jeff Greenfield called Obama’s performance “an exceptional moment” before he did his best to justify Obama’s defense of a deal “with a bunch of bad guys”: 

Obama was coming to the podium to defend a deal with a bunch of bad guys, if I can put it that way, not only facing the implacable opposition of Republicans, but real skepticism on the part of some Democrats, even some people who work for him. And what -- it seemed to me, he was at pains to do, to try -- it’s -- invite as you said, unprecedentedly -- right, give me your best shot is to come back and back to the one issue. 

Washington Post columnist E.J, Dionne concluded the over-the-top gushing of Obama as he expressed excitement at how “fascinating” his defense of the Iran deal was: 

[W]e underestimate the fact that one of the most important things a president does is make arguments. And I’ve never seen Obama himself be so persistent. I mean, it was fascinating. Early in the news conference, the first question was from a reporter where it didn’t really raise any of the negative arguments. So, Obama said, well, before I get to that, let me answer some more arguments.

See relevant transcript below. 

MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell

July 15, 2015

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: You don’t have to be very old to have seen every televised presidential press conference. Dwight Eisenhower did the first in 1955, the next president, President Kennedy mastered the forum in the early 1960s and no one has been as good consistently since President Kennedy. President Kennedy had a much more compliant press corps, willing sometimes to just surrender in laughter when he asked -- when he was asked a tough question and decided to answer it with a joke.

Today, President Obama facing a much more contentious press corps demonstrated more confidence at the podium than any president in the history of televised presidential press conferences, more even than Kennedy. President Obama confidently did something today that we have never seen at a presidential press conference before.
--
O’DONNELL: When presidents go to the microphone, there are plenty of questions that they are hoping never get asked. A presidential press conference is normally a defensive affair that has the entire White House staff on edge just dying for it to be over. Today, we saw a president unafraid of any question, certain, that he was ready with a powerful answer to any objection raised about the deal with Iran.
--
O’DONNELL: Joining us now, political analyst and author Jeff Greenfield, columnist for "Daily Beast". E. J. Dionne, columnist for the Washington Post and MSNBC political analyst, and Dafna Linzer, MSNBC Digital Managing Editor, she spent a decade reporting from Middle East and covered Iran’s nuclear program for the Washington Post. Jeff Greenfield, as our senior presidential press conference observer here in the group, I didn’t see that Eisenhower once. 

I don’t know about that one, but there’s never been a moment where the President just got to the point where on the big issue of the day that he was out there trying to sell, highly controversial, facing a lot of opposition. He just said, is there -- are there anymore objections? Any more questions anybody can possibly think of about this? Because he was ready to take them all on. I have never seen that moment before.

JEFF GREENFIELD: You know, I’m trying to remember the first time I saw William Howard Taft try this --

(LAUGHTER)

O’DONNELL: It wasn’t --

GREENFIELD: No --

O’DONNELL: Televised --

GREENFIELD:In this case, Obama was coming to the podium to defend a deal with a bunch of bad guys, if I can put it that way, not only facing the implacable opposition of Republicans, but real skepticism on the part of some Democrats, even some people who work for him. And what -- it seemed to me, he was at pains to do, to try -- it’s -- invite as you said, unprecedentedly -- right, give me your best shot is to come back and back to the one issue.

These guys are still going to do bad things, they do bad things any way, at least this way will not let them get a bomb. And so I think the -- what you saw today and he clearly loaded for there. I mean, the first two questions took 25 minutes to answer, I think. Was somebody coming knowing what a difficult political dilemma he faces?    

O’DONNELL: And E.J., when have we previously seen a reception like this in Washington to this kind of diplomatic initiative by a president? Do we have to go back a 100 years to the League of Nations where Congress rejected that to find something akin to this?

E.J. DIONNE: You know, well, when Seward bought Alaska, and Jeff and I were covering it, there were a lot of people who made fun of him for spending $7 million to buy Alaska. I don’t -- I can’t think of a case like this partly because it’s hard to think of a country that has the kind of moral weight that Iran does on the negative side. I mean the Iranian hostage crisis was in the face of the country. Again, you’ve got to be of a certain age to remember that. But that went on and on and on, and it’s part of our history.

And so, I think there is a special antipathy to Iran among a lot of Americans. But I think what’s really striking today is that, we underestimate the fact that one of the most important things a president does is make arguments. And I’ve never seen Obama himself be so persistent. I mean, it was fascinating. Early in the news conference, the first question was from a reporter where it didn’t really raise any of the negative arguments. So, Obama said, well, before I get to that, let me answer some more arguments.

O’DONNELL: Yes --

DIONNE: So, he knows what he is up against here. You know, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him stump the country on behalf of this and you know, take questions in town halls. He is really trying to persuade people.

NB Daily Foreign Policy Iran MSNBC Other MSNBC The Last Word President Obama President Barack Obama Lawrence O'Donnell E. J. Dionne Jeff Greenfield

Sponsored Links