In an effort to soothe the increasingly peeved White House press corps, the president appeared in the White House Briefing Room today to take a few questions. It was a remarkably ineffective performance, which the White House must hope that few people watched.

Among other untruths, the president insisted, “Nobody accused Mr. Romney of being a felon.” Well, other than deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter. With regard to his super PAC ad claiming that Mitt Romney, in effect, killed a woman, President Obama maintained, “I don’t think Governor Romney is somehow responsible for the death of the woman that was portrayed in that ad. But keep in mind, this is an ad that I didn’t approve, I did not produce, and as far as I can tell, has barely run. I think it ran once.” Well, except the woman’s husband, Joe Soptic, was trotted out for an Obama campaign press conference.

Even more ludicrous was Obama’s answer on welfare reform. He said that Romney’s ad was a lie. But then he offered: “In fact, what happened was that my administration — responding to the requests of five governors, including two Republican governors — agreed to approve giving them, those states, some flexibility in how they manage their welfare rolls as long as it produced 20 percent increases in the number of people who are getting work.” In other words, they will let non-work count for work if the state promises to reduce the welfare rolls by 20 percent.

Obama also cemented his role as a bystander in his own administration. On Syria, he mused, “At this point the likelihood of a soft landing seems pretty distant.” Yes, if you let things drift along without strong U.S. leadership, I guess things don’t always work out. (How many dead Syrians before it’s no longer a “soft landing”?) He did suggest that, if “we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moved around or being utilized, that would change my calculations significantly.” He did not say what he’d do if less than “a whole bunch” was moved around.

Obama is remarkably unadept at making a case for himself, no doubt because he hasn’t faced tough questioning lately. The sorts of easily debunked answers he gave today would be instant fodder in a debate. Maybe he should stop hiding from the press and get some practice in adversarial settings before the three critical debates.