The press corps asked no questions during Monday’s White House press conference about the meltdown of President Barack Obama‘s high-profile Muslim outreach policy.
Instead, they spent time asking low-impact questions, such as whether officials timed today’s announcement of a new lawsuit against Chinese auto part makers to aid the president’s two campaign stops in Ohio.
They used up the bulk of their limited time throwing softball questions.
“It was a beautiful weekend for golf and he wasn’t out on the course,” asked one reporter, according to a transcript. “Is it safe to assume maybe he was doing some preparation [for the presidential debates] at the White House?”
“Can you give us any guidance or insight into how the President is monitoring the situation in Afghanistan?” asked another reporter. The journalists’ names are not included in the transcript.
Obama’s Arab-outreach policy — dubbed “A New Beginning” in 2009 — is being shredded as Islamist governments, angry populations and jihadi groups compete to demonstrate their hostility to, or distance from, Obama’s U.S. government.
United States Marines are being sent to protect embassies, U.S. diplomats have been withdrawn from the region and the Beirut embassy has begun burning classified documents, according to the Associated Press.
Even friendly Libyan officials publicly dismiss the White House’s claim that the deadly Sept. 11, 2012 attack in Benghazi was the result of an uproar over a low-budget YouTube video.
Moreover, the end of that “New Beginning” is having an impact on the 2012 race: Republicans are stepping up their criticism of the president’s outreach strategy, his preparations against possible jihadi attacks and his reaction to the events during the last six days.
Only two questions referred to the administration’s reaction to the Islamist protests and attacks in Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Tunisia and several other countries.
No reporter asked about the White House’s Sept. 14 request to Google, asking the company to remove from YouTube’s servers a video that the president does not like. And no reporter asked about the president’s silence while Islamist governments in Egypt, Turkey and Iran demand curbs on Americans’ free speech.
No journalist asked White House officials about the Sept. 11, 2012 jihadi strike on the Benghazi consulate that killed four officials including the ambassador, despite startling news from Libya suggesting that the embassy was almost defenseless.
The president got no questions about the Benghazi attack even though his administration’s explanation for that assault — that protesters angered by the video had gone berserk — was contradicted over the weekend by Libyan government officials and by local witnesses, as well as by video showing an attacker carrying a rocket launcher.
The press conference, dubbed a “gaggle,” was held on board Air Force One en route to two campaign events in Ohio.
The agenda was steered by Obama’s deputies Josh Earnest, Obama’s “principal deputy press secretary,” and Jennifer Psaki, the traveling press secretary for Obama’s re-election campaign.
Earnest and Psaki focused the media’s attention on the president’s visit to Ohio by announcing a trade lawsuit against Chinese auto parts manufacturers.