Saturday, December 20, 2014

A disappointing press corps

President Obama held a press conference at the White House on December 19, 2014 prior to his departure for a two week vacation in Hawaii for the holidays.   Watching the entire one hour press conference revealed yet again how fatuous the press has become. 

Two issues that were discussed – the hacking of Sony Corporation and the opening of diplomatic relations with Cuba – revealed that the press members the president selected to ask questions are reluctant, if not incapable, of asking difficult questions of the president.   Here are two questions that should have been asked but were not:

Sony Hacking – The hacking of Sony is reflective of a much broader vulnerability in private and government networks.  A constant barrage of successful attacks is reported near daily.  The most important defense, infrastructure, financial and research and development systems of the United States have been penetrated by state actors and criminal networks.  As the Commander in Chief, it is the president’s duty to defend the United States.  It is clear the protection of these systems is not a high enough priority based on the success of attackers.  Might someone in the press corps, rather than focusing on Seth Rogan, have asked the question:

Some believe that an asymmetric attack on the electrical power grid, communications infrastructure, and data systems of the United States is the greatest threat, even an existential threat, to the country.  Do you agree and if so why is the defense of these systems not the highest national defense priority of your administration.

Cuba   -  The President announced a historic opening of diplomatic relations with Cuba after nearly 50 years of isolation.  The substance and rationale for the change likely will garner a wide majority of support among the American people, to include the author of this blog.  But like so many of Obama’s policy actions it was done in a manner that more befits a king or dictator than a president of a constitutional republic.  Might someone in the press corps have asked the question:   

You have taken an historic action without any consultation with the Congress, a co-equal branch of government, upon which you will depend for changes to the embargo and other matters of law relating to Cuba.  Why do you believe it appropriate to confer in secret with the Castro regime, to conduct meetings in Canada and at the Vatican, yet you make no effort to consult even with the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee? 


  1. I'm often frustrated by unasked, as well as unanswered questions to politicians, including the president. However, the two questions posed in the "A disappointing press corps" article are not among them. I believe these two questions are posed to make a point rather than elicit relevant information.

    The cyber security question is a loaded question in that it assumes that cyber security is not given sufficient priority by the federal government. Is there evidence that that’s the case? I don’t think so. The question also assumes that cyber security ought to be the highest defense priority. I think we need to be equally vigilant on several fronts when it comes to WMD threats, e.g. airplanes, nukes, chemical-biological weapons, etc. I do have several questions concerning our cyber security. However, I wouldn’t want the answers to those questions made public.

    I believe that the answer to the Cuba question is fairly evident. The actions of the President are decades overdue, and these actions would have been impossible to achieve if the U.S. Congress had been involved. Consulting only with the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would have ignited a partisan firestorm and served no useful purpose. Bipartisanship is no longer an option, sad but true.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I greatly appreciate it when people take the time to express there opinion here whether they agree with me or not. Let me respond as best I can to your questions or concerns.

      "I believe these two questions are posed to make a point rather than elicit relevant information." I agree. The questions are intended to make a point.

      I restrict my blog posts to 600 words to keep interest and for publication in newspapers. I cannot put a lot of detail in the posts, but I do try to ensure my comments are factually supportable. The DoD requested $5 billion for cyber security. If you add the Intelligence Community spending of another $5 billion and the civilian agency spending in this area of $2.5 billion the total spending is about $12.5 billion. Total federal spending for 2015 will be $3.9 trillion. Discretionary alone is $1.16 trillion. $12.5 is relative chump change.

      In addressing priorities in spending one must make an assessment of the probability of an attack and the potential impact. The likelihood of a nuclear exchange is very low, but the impact would be enormous. We need to pay attention. The probability of a cyber attack is 100%. We are under attack now. The potential impact can be existential in our high tech dependent nation. Imagine the power out on the East Coast for 2 weeks. It would be absolute chaos. Imagine the computers and servers of Fidelity, Vanguard, and the top ten U.S. banks that hold 90% of assets being wiped out. This is what was done to Sony. It is the most probable threat and apart from an all out nuclear exchange is the only threat capable of changing our way of life.

      On Cuba, as I said, I actually agree with a new approach to Cuba. The problem is that we have a constitutional republic not a dictatorship. Your statement indicates you feel that when a president does not want to take the time to work with Congress, or cannot convince them of his position, that he should just take the action independently. That is frightening. I refer you to my previous post "Less Like a President than a King" and ask if you would feel the same if the presidential office holder had an outlook on policy far different from your own would you feel the same way.


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