Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
Explainer: How Much Time Have We Wasted Waiting for Obama?
Monday, September 19, 2011
President he is, punctual he ain't.
This morning's unveiling of Barack Obama's new deficit reduction plan was supposed to kick off at 10:30 EST; it was really closer to 11 o'clock. No one was surprised. The President is infamous for giving speeches behind schedule, much to the chagrin of the Washington press corps, television producers, and internet streamers across the country.
Which begs the question: Just how much time have we wasted since Obama took office? All those delays must add up; what could the White House press corps have accomplished if they were given all those hours (or days, or weeks) back?
Let's do the math.
CBS tallied 411 "speeches, comments and remarks" given by Obama in his first year in office. This isn't counting all the town hall meetings and conferences and other times the press is there, which would probably add a couple hundred instances to that count.
Taking 411 as our base estimate for number of speeches per year—very generous—at that rate Obama has delivered about 1,090 speeches since his inauguration. If he's 15 minutes late to each one—very, very generous—that works out to about 273 hours that we've spent "Waiting for O".
Multiply that by the number of people in the White House press corps—WikiPedia count is 45, let's go with that—and you're looking at 12,285 hours that these journalists have lost collectively. That's enough time to:
Travel to the moon and back 80 times (almost two round trips per press person)
Read the entire Internal Revenue Code 100 times (about two times through for each reporter, could be useful)
Complete a 9' x 12' Persian rug with 500 knots per square inch (if they work in shifts)
Knit booties for every baby born in New York City over a ten-day period (each journalist responsible for 69 pairs)
Perform John Cage's "4'33" 163,075 times
Form a 45-person guild in World of Warcraft and get every member to level 85 (perhaps an even less efficient use of time)
Listen to every episode of the Brian Lehrer show ever produced (22 years' worth of politics!)
And this is the conservative estimate, folks. If you see Jake Tapper knitting furiously before an Obama speech, now you know why.
Stephen Reader would be happy to answer questions about his methodology in the comments below or via Twitter.