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For the first time since last July, President Obama actually called a White House press conference, last Thursday afternoon.

I was in such hope that after one of modern U.S. history’s longest periods with no such presidential news conference, Mr. Obama would do much better in the number of reporters he allowed to ask questions – which numbered only 13 at each of the last two such events.

This time, he allowed only 11. All of them were selected in obvious advance, since he peered down at a list before calling each name.

This, in turn, gives play to the widely held suspicion that each one called upon has been notified in advance – that and even theories that they are required to submit advanced copies of their questions to the White House. I do not believe in either advanced notification or such prior disclosure.

The president’s opening statement – on the oil spill – lasted 11 minutes and 14 seconds.

Almost all of the 11 selected questioners raised this same admittedly important issue.

AP, as the first questioner, took 28 seconds to ask – and received a Bama-filibuster response of seven minutes and 57 seconds.

All the remaining Obama responses, to the other selected 10 questioners, were so very much longer than the questions. One 35-second inquiry evoked an Obama filibuster response of six minutes and 47 seconds.

In attendance were reporters who in total number were at least six times the selected few allowed to ask questions. This is in such striking contrast to President John F. Kennedy’s first press conference, where he recognized more than three times the number of reporters than those recognized on Thursday.

Not only was this the first White House press conference at which the presidential podium was at the southern end of the East Room, but it was the only such event I have ever seen when only three and a fraction of the rows of seats were reserved – so I was able to obtain a seat in row four.

The seating was arranged in two separate sections.

In the front section, where I was seated, I counted five seats that were vacant. But in that back section – which I suspect the White House press office thought would surely be filled, there was, what appeared to be, a large section of vacant seats – maybe two dozen.

For the dozens of us who attended and hoped to ask questions – only to see him reduce his favorites to 11 – Broadway, a number of years ago, featured a memorable musical entitled “Barnum,” which had one particularly memorable song:

There is a sucker born every minute

Each time the second hand sweeps to the top

Like dandelions up they pop

Their ears so big, their eyes so wide.

And though I feed ‘em bona fide baloney

With no truth in it

Why you can bet I’ll find some rube to buy my corn.

‘Cause there’s a sure-as-shootin’ sucker born each minute,

And I’m referrin’ to the minute you were born. …

There ain’t no man who can resist me wait and see

‘Cause there’s a sure-as-shootin’ sucker born each minute,

And friends, the biggest one, excluding none, is Meeeeee!

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