President Obama should answer questions about the attempted airline bombing

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

DURING HIS FIRST year in office, President Obama has been commendably available to take reporters' questions. Indeed, there has been some sniping about whether the president has been overexposed. According to figures compiled by Towson University political scientist Martha Joynt Kumar, in the first seven months of his presidency, George W. Bush held just three full-fledged news conferences in which he appeared solo before reporters and 11 joint appearances (brief sessions with foreign leaders). In that same period, Mr. Obama held nine solo and 13 joint sessions; he gave 114 interviews to Mr. Bush's 37. So Mr. Obama has been doing great in comparison -- until recently. The president has not taken questions from reporters since Dec. 18 in Copenhagen; his last real news conference was in Italy during the economic summit.

The issue of presidential availability for questioning is especially salient in the wake of the failed Christmas Day bombing of Northwest Flight 253. Mr. Obama has made numerous statements about the incident. He has not taken a single question. His homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, and counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, briefed reporters after the president's remarks on Thursday. But there are important questions that call for a presidential response on this serious matter. Asked Friday about this situation, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the White House had no plans for a news conference. At a jobs event Friday, the president took no questions from reporters.

This presidential reticence is unfortunate. The American people are understandably concerned about the intelligence failings that Mr. Obama outlined. They want to hear from him beyond canned statements.

In his dealings with reporters, the president has proven himself knowledgeable and adept at offering thoughtful responses. It is puzzling, and disturbing, that he would choose not to answer questions about one of the biggest events of his young presidency.


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