Over the past several months, President Obama has become accustomed to questions like these:
» "It must not be too bad to be friends with George Clooney? Is he a nice guy?"
» "Is the campaign bus comfortable?"
» "If you had a super power, what would it be?"
For the record, Obama's answers were, "He's a wonderful guy," "It is," and "I would love to be able to speak any language." But do not blame the White House press corps for this soft-handed and soft-headed treatment of Obama. The reason Obama has been fielding hard-hitting questions from the journalists at People magazine, "Entertainment Tonight," and drive-time pop radio DJs in Albuquerque is that, until Monday at about 1:30 p.m., Obama hadn't held an actual White House news conference since March 6. The last time the press was able to ask him even a couple of questions on U.S. soil had been June 18, when he told reporters that "the private sector is doing fine."
So after months of trolling for soft press, Obama finally stepped forward to answer a few questions. And he was obviously a little out of practice.
When a reporter noted that Obama's campaign had "suggested that [Mitt] Romney might be a felon" and that Obama's officially endorsed super-PAC had produced an ad that "links Romney to a woman's death," Obama responded: "Well, first of all I am not sure that all of those characterizations that you laid out there were accurate. For example, nobody accused Mr. Romney of being a felon."
Sorry, Mr. President, but what you said is false.
On July 12, Obama's deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter told reporters on a conference call that Romney "through his own words and his own signature" misrepresented "his position at Bain to the [Securities and Exchange Commission], which is a felony."
Asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer four days later if she wanted to retract the charge, Cutter instead doubled down: "It's a fact. If you're signing federal documents knowing them to be false, it's a felony. Anybody who works in the federal government knows that."
If that is not accusing Romney to be a felon, then what is?
Obama then denied having any control over the super-PAC ad that accused Romney of causing a man's wife to die of cancer. But in February, Obama's campaign manager Jim Messina sent a letter to donors on Obama's behalf, urging them to give money to the very super-PAC in question. His former aide Bill Burton runs it, and his top aides, including senior White House adviser David Plouffe, have been raising money for it as recently as last week.
Later in the press conference Obama said, "You can't just make stuff up. That's something you learn as president of the United States."
After more than 30 months in office, Obama has not yet learned that lesson himself.