20 Dec

Events of Interest and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective



Russia ‘not concerned’ about fate of Assad

President Vladimir Putin distances himself from Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, saying nation is more important than regime.

Last Modified: 20 Dec 2012 14:51 GMT

Israeli attacks on media in Gaza ‘unlawful’

Israel violated international laws for raids carried out on media during recent attacks on Gaza, a rights group says.
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2012 11:20 GMT

Middle East


  1. Russia ‘not concerned’ about fate of Assad

  2. The battle for the Sinai

  3. The Organ Traders

  4. Top Egyptian elections official steps down

  5. Israel’s colonial strangling of Bethlehem

  6. Who is a Muslim?

  7. Israeli attacks on media in Gaza ‘unlawful’

  8. UN sees no prospect of end to Syria violence

  9. Dawkins on religion

  10. Bus attack highlights India’s rape epidemic

Our guide to the end of the world

 Guardian science correspondent Alok Jha examines the controversial Mayan meeting

White House press corps reveals its Beltway worst in questions to Obama

Reporters fail to distinguish themselves by skipping guns and focusing on the fiscal cliff – but president fares little better

Obama at the White House press conference

Obama’s answers at the news conference were alarmingly reminiscent of a stump speech. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

One of the first rules of being a journalist (we’ve just now looked them up) is: you don’t have to ask the questions the person talking wants to answer. You can ask anything. And the White House press corps proved it on Wednesday.

After announcing a new panel on gun control to be headed by vice-president Joe Biden, the president, weariness writ on his face, the pain of Newtown still heavy in his voice, offered to take questions.

The first question was about … the fiscal cliff. So was the second one. So was the third one.

The press exercised its freedom. It was not an impressive display.

Given an opportunity to speak for a nation aching to hear that something real is being done about guns, the White House corps reverted to its Beltway worst, bypassing a needed conversation to stroke a personal fixation.

Perhaps worse, the president took them up on it, delivering long-winded, rambling, repetitive answers that were alarmingly reminiscent of a stump speech.

The fiscal cliff is important. It was appropriate for the president to take a question about it. And he did get one good punch in, accusing Republicans of being so caught up in defeating him personally that they had lost sight of the public good. That line should play well in the evening newscasts.

But to watch the exchange play out at the top of what most everyone else hoped would be a conversation on gun control was discouraging. The implication was that perhaps it is impossible after all for the USA to discuss the matter. You know what we can talk about? Congressional gridlock.

The gun control questions did eventually come. Then, at the end, ABC News’ Jake Tapper nailed it, pointing out that the president hasn’t done much on guns in the last four years and asking, “Where have you been?”

Obama showed his frustration. He said he was dealing with the worst economic crisis since the great depression, two wars and a bunch of other stuff. “I haven’t been on vacation,” he said.

The news conference mercifully ended there. Where the conversation goes remains to be seen.

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