"And that's the way it was, and we liked it."*
Several veteran and prize-winning journalists who covered presidents from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush say that the current crop of White House correspondents are too timid and deferential and have played a role in killing the impact of presidential news conferences.
When the topic turn to today's White House press corps, the grizzled veterans were dismissive, calling them weak imitations of their Cold War predecessors.
Davis says "I don't like today's news conferences" with the president. Kennedy's, he says, were "thoroughly unrehearsed, natural and they worked to a large extent." Today's versions, he adds, "look like they are rehearsed."
Worse, he says, reporters look like stenographers. "I think democracy is noisy. The news conferences should get to back to what they were even if people are going to raise their voices."
I couldn't agree more (and it's actually worse under Obama than Bush), but I would add one thing -- it's not just that White House news conferences look rehearsed. It's that sometimes they really are scripted.
*If you don't remember Dana Carvey's Grumpy Old Man, here he is.