It seems everyone is in agreement that last night's take away moment was Obama scolding CNN's Ed Henry while responding to a question about AIG. Henry pointed out that New York AG Andrew Cuomo is someone who has succeeded in making loud noises over the company's bonuses. Obama's very Obamaish response: "I took a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak." While fun to watch, it also served a couple purposes. First, it let Henry know his part of the Q and A had reached its conclusion. It also allowed Obama to imply that a lot of politicians are busy popping off and preening for the cameras without offering much in the way of answers. What makes this quintessential Obama is that he didn't try to feign outrage in response to Henry's attempt to start a pissing contest. Most politicians would have reached for their inner Howard Beale. But Obama has proven smart enough to try something a bit different: a reasonable, honest answer.
What I'm not sure about is the country's reaction to that response, along with Obama's generally measured tone throughout the presser. I know I liked it. But I'm not most people. Right now folks are angry and the conventional wisdom is that they want to see action and pique from their politicians. Obama's just not going to give them a lot of that. It's not his style. What he's going to engender is a feeling of competence and grace under pressure. We'll have to wait and see what people gravitate toward. The good news, however, is that the administration learned its lesson and has put Obama front and center to sell the bank bailout and budget. Trusting Congress to do that with the stimulus package bordered on political malpractice.
One other thought: the questions were predictably atrocious. Chuck Todd embarrassed himself by asking if Americans should sacrifice more during a bad recession, apparently confusing a down economic period with going to war. What more should the unemployed give, Chuck? The AP's Jennifer Loven asked why the American people should grant the administration new powers to regulate, as though the idea were some subversive Communist plot. Then Major Garrett asked a question about Communists and monetary policy. Somehow no one thought to ask about the issue at hand: the bank bailout.