Skip to main content

Professor in Chief

The pundits are weighing in on President Obama’s second press conference. Gee, isn’t that one more press conference than President Bush had during his second term? Anyhoo, the responses have ranged from a “not a good night at all” rating from William Bennett (as if I expected anything else) to the folks on MSNBC calling his performance that of the “Professor in Chief.”


As I watched the press conference with BMNB (my husband, Black Man Not Blogging), I told him, “You know, he’s had the best preparation for this press conference that there could ever be – being a law professor.” As a former law professor, I couldn’t help but smile.

As a law professor, you have to be knowledgeable about your subject matter, yet humble and confident enough to say when you don’t know something and get back to your students with an answer. You know that not all questions posed by your students will be for the purpose of seeking knowledge. If you’re a rookie professor or, depending on what part of the country you’re in, a professor of color, you know that many questions will be asked by students to test you, to demean you, to marginalize you. The key is to give every question equal respect and tone lest you be perceived as arrogant, cold (the adjective most often applied to women law professors, as if we’re supposed to be warm and fuzzy by virtue of possessing ovaries), or angry. You can, if you're as skillful as President Obama, phrase your answer in a tone that is respectful but with words that smack down your offending questioners, e.g, "I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak." And like the press corps, law students will ask follow-up questions if they think you’ve dodged their question. President Obama handled the press corps like a class of first-year law students, and, unlike the wide latitude they gave President Bush’s rambling filibusters, I don’t think the press corps knew quite what to make of or do with President Obama.

Like a law professor, a president in a press conference is, ultimately, in control. You choose whom to call on, and the power to ignore someone – and in the case of a class of law students, to publicly ignore someone with a hand raised for a substantial amount of time – is a source of control. Law professors have even more power in that they can defer questions you think aren’t germane to the day’s lecture to the time when that subject will be discussed, or explain, ever so tactfully, why the question isn’t relevant. But like a president in a press conference, you can never, ever lose your cool, because then the lecture or press conference becomes less about the information you’re trying to impart and more about you and your performance. If the message gets lost in the medium, you’ve lost the game and given your potential critics a legitimate criticism – you’re unclear, unfocused, or emotional. Kinda like President Bush.

I think President Obama played it like a pro – a professor, that is.

But I did detect a slight saunter, a bit of a “pimp roll,” shall we say, when he departed the East Room.

He’s cool like that.


VwsRMyLife said…
roll on President O

Popular posts from this blog

Retired Man Walking: Too Young to Retire, Too Old to Take Shit

A while back I ran into a friend and fellow professional employed by the State of California, and he offered me his perspective on State employment as a tail-end Baby Boomer like myself -- someone who can't retire because he lacks the requisite age or years of service, but, unlike myself, is tired of taking shit from superiors who don't know what to do with you.

Although my friend gave his permission for me to use his name in this blog entry, I decline to do so because what he does is so specialized that it would not be hard for anyone to identify him as one of the few African American men, if not the only African-American man, in California state civil service who does what he does. For purposes of this blog entry, I will refer to him as he now refers to himself:  Retired Man Walking.

Retired Man Walking, or RMW, has an interesting philosophy he applies to working for the State as a professional who isn't old enough to retire but has been around long enough to know the s…

Hillary Clinton Can Stop Trump -- If She Releases Her Electors

Hillary Clinton isn't going to be President of the United States.  At least not yet.  And not in 2017.

But she can possibly stop Donald Trump from being President by releasing her pledged electors  in the Electoral College to vote for a compromise Republican candidate.

This is part of the strategy of the Hamilton Electors, members of the Electoral College who see that Donald Trump is not qualified to be President.  They argue that the Electoral College's role is not to rubber-stamp the popular vote -- which, in this case, would belong to Clinton -- but to serve as a check on the popular vote to make sure that no one who is unfit assumes the office of President.

According to the Hamilton Electors, named for Founding Father Alexander Hamilton (Yes, he of the very popular musical for which I can't get tickets) Hamilton stated that the Electoral College's test for fitness to be the President was as follows (and I'm quoting):

Election of a Qualified Person: As Hamilton s…

My Prayer and Mantra for 2017 -- Do Not Waste Time on People and Things That Don't Matter

In this era of fake news, fake political candidates, and fake people all around, my prayer and mantra for 2017 is simple:  Do not waste time on people and things that don't matter.

In 2016, I spent too much time and money on things and people who didn't matter.  I allowed myself to become distracted by stuff that, for me and Black Man Not Blogging, didn't really matter for our happiness.  These distractions not only didn't improve the quality of our life together; they decreased it with additional and unnecessary stress.

The good news is that, for the most part, we're okay.  Yeah, Trump and his ilk really suck, but instead of a lot of hand wringing and commiserating, I'm going to do the one thing my late mother She Who  Is Exalted (SWIE) did better than anyone I know:  Play the hand you've been dealt.  My mother was a black female without a college education and with six kids, so playing the hand she was dealt was her survival skill.  Now it will be mine.