My colleague Matt Yglesias once criticized the questioning style of a Sunday show host by challenging the idea that he asked "hardballs." No, said Yglesias: "These aren't hardballs, which go somewhere interesting. They're crazyballs, which go somewhere pointless." The nearly news-free Obama press conference alternated between softballs and crazyballs. The closest things to news were the president's Sorkin-on-no-sleep eloquence about the Sochi delegation and this part of an NSA answer.
What I've said in the past continues to be the case, which is that the NSA, in executing this program, believed, based on experiences from 9/11, that it was important for us to be able to track, if there was a phone number of a known terrorist outside of the United States calling into the United States, where that call might have gone and that having that data in one place and retained for a certain period of time allowed them to be confident in pursuing various investigations of terrorist threats.
The question wasn't, "Has the NSA program stopped a terrorist attack?" but in this roundabout way, the president made it sound like such a success remained theoretical.
That was about it. Reader, it's up to you: Which of these was today's most pointless question?
1) "It's been a tough year. You may not want to call it the worst year of your presidency, but it's clearly been a tough year. The polls have gone up and down, but they are at a low point right now. So what I'm asking you—you've acknowledged the difficulties with the health care rollout. But when you look back and you look at the decisions that you have made and what you did, what you didn't do, for you personally, what do you think has been your biggest mistake?"
2) "On a more personal note, what is your New Year's resolution?"
3) "Some of your long-time advisers and new folks are coming in. Others are taking on new roles in the west wing. As you reshape your team a bit, how does that change the dynamic here and how does it impact what you think you can accomplish going forward?"
I'll tally the results.
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