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Defending the White House press corps questioning of the fiscal cliff at Obama’s gun press conference

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It’s been a tough week across the country when it comes to guns. Twenty children are dead after a son of one of the teacher’s in the building came inside Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. It’s brought back a large debate in the public arena regarding “gun control,” that is, what regulations should be placed on weapons in a country where the Second Amendment currently allows for residents to bear arms.

I’m not going into that debate here for several reasons: this is a journalism page, not a gun page and frankly, it’s one I’d rather not have after seeing so much of it in the last week. It’s been tough seeing people at church cry, and asking about the gun restrictions with others in the community I cover. It’s hard to watch when you know those 20 kids will not get to grow up like they deserve to.

But I will venture into a topic related to this issue and reaction about the White House Press Corps Wednesday. President Barack Obama spoke regarding a special panel, headed by Vice President Joe Biden, that will examine the gun control issue in the future.

After the president was done speaking, the White House Press Corps then began asking questions. But the questions weren’t related to gun-control; they related to the looming “fiscal cliff,” the expiration of the Bush tax cuts that will trigger increases in taxes for everyone in the nation.

This prompted a backlash among many, seeing the press corps as an agency not worried about gun safety, the topic of the press conference. It even prompted a parody hashtag on Twitter, consisting of people making fun of the press for their lack of questioning on the topic.

[View the story “Reaction from the Press Corps questions” on Storify

I’ll defend the press corps and their reasoning for asking off-topic questions here, because there shouldn’t be any outrage over their decision. One reason of this happens at every press conference; whenever the president is made available to the press, questions regarding topics the president doesn’t address always come up. It’s the nature of the reporter’s job: ask questions of the president regarding policy and other important subject matters. The president knows having a press conference opens him up to questions on any topic.

Gun discussions have become a very public topic. Everyone has an opinion, and the president has expressed his several times, including back in July after the movie theater shooting in Colorado that left several people dead during a midnight showing. It’s a topic that’s getting a lot of talk right now, and the decision was made to move forward with the special commission

Of course, there was no answers when the press asked questions regarding guns after the shooting, being told by the White House “it wasn’t the right time.”

But on the flip side, the fiscal cliff talks, which some people say could spark another recession in the United States economy, is a subject that’s shrouded in secrecy in Washington. Speaker of the House John Boehner held a “press conference” Wednesday which lasted a brief 54 seconds addressing the president’s proposed plan. Many of the talks between legislators and the executive branch have been behind closed doors and no one has come out too much on those secret meetings. So why wouldn’t the press corps ask questions on a topic that’s rarely talked about by leaders that could affect millions of Americans?

Gun violence is horrible in this country, no doubt. Something has to be done. I don’t know what that is, but a panel is going to investigate it. Not much will happen until then, at least at the federal executive level. But with the president being so scarcely available for questions (he’s averaged 1.66 press conferences a month since his term began, and went eight months without having one earlier this year), the press corps jumped at the opportunity. Isn’t that the job of reporters?

Written by David Veselenak

December 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm