The Huffington Post came up with a great gimmick to get its blogger called on at today's press conference. And the White House came up with a great gimmick to look responsive to the people of Iran. Everybody wins.
The Huffington Post's Nico Pitney, who's been aggregating news from and about the Iranian unrest since it began more than a week ago, had a seat at the presser. Before he headed to the White House, he opened up the floor to the people of Iran via the Huffington Post:
Later today, President Obama is holding a news conference at the White House and I'll be attending. If I get called, I want to ask a question that comes directly from an Iranian. We've all spent plenty of time discussing and debating how the President has reacted to the crisis there; it seems only fair that the people on the ground, living right now under great stress and uncertainty, be able to have a question of theirs answered.
Barack Obama, who knows an opportunity for a potent symbolic gesture when he sees one, took the gambit head on. He called on Pitney by name, and let it be known that he was calling on him because he wanted to hear a question from the Iranian people. The Huffington Post gets its second question at a presidential press conference, further legitimizing it as a news outlet, Pitney gets (deserved) recognition for his tireless collation of Iran news and video, and Obama gets to be seen as communicating directly with the people of Iran.
In the end, of course, it doesn't matter where the question—under what, if any, conditions Obama would accept an Ahmadinejad victory as legitimate—came from. What matters is whether it was a good question. It was, and Obama didn't answer it.
UPDATE: The whole thing was indeed choreographed, Politico reports, quoting White House flack Bill Burton: "We did reach out to him prior to press conference to tell him that we had been paying attention to what he had been doing on Iran and there was a chance that he'd be called on." CBC News' Mark Knoller got confirmation from Pitney: "Huffington Post's Nico Pitney says the WH called him this morning and invited him to ask his Iran questions at the news conference."