Those of you watching President Barack Obama’s first national press conference last night — and due to the blanket press coverage it was hard to miss — may have done a small double take when the President called on Sam Stein of The Huffington Post for a question. Considering the President only made time for 13 questions, and those left out included the Wall St Journal, Chicago Tribune, and Newsweek, the selection (journalists had been pre-selected by the White House) turned some heads. But hey, it’s supposed to be the Internet presidency right! And anyway, Stein asked a good question (in full after the jump).
We caught up with Stein, who in our opinion was remarkably composed last night, and asked him what it was like to be thrust into the Obama presser klieg lights.
I think this underscores just how far new media has come. I can’t pretend that it wasn’t great to be called on by the President. But I think this says more about the how journalism has changed and evolved. And, I should add, there are tons of other online reporters that deserve the chance (more than I probably did) to pose questions to the president.
OBAMA: Sam Stein, Huffington Post — where’s Sam? Here.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Today Senator Patrick Leahy announced that he wants to set up a truth and reconciliation committee to investigate the misdeeds of the Bush administration. He said that before you turn the page, you have to read the page first. Do you agree with such a proposal, and are you willing to rule out right here and now any prosecution of Bush administration officials?
OBAMA: I haven’t seen the proposal, so I don’t want to express an opinion on something that I haven’t seen.
What I have said is that my administration is going to operate in a way that leaves no doubt that we do not torture, and that we abide by the Geneva Conventions, and that we observe our traditions of rule of law and due process, as we are vigorously going after terrorists that can do us harm. And I don’t think those are contradictory; I think they are potentially complementary.
My view is also that nobody is above the law, and if there are clear instances of wrongdoing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen; but that generally speaking, I’m more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards. I want to pull everybody together, including, by the way, the — all the members of the intelligence community who have done things the right way and have been working hard to protect America, and I think sometimes are painted with a broad brush without adequate information.
So I will take a look at Senator Leahy’s proposal, but my general orientation is to say, let’s get it right moving forward.