Obama makes joke at Cruz's expense
 
A student from Indiana, where Cruz is campaigning ahead of the state's Tuesday primary, started to ask Obama a question about Syrian refugees when the president cut him off.
 
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“I thought you were going to ask about basketball rings,” Obama said, referring to a gaffe Cruz made in the hoops-crazed Hoosier State. 
 
His comment drew laughter from the packed crowd inside the Brady Press Briefing Room.
 
Obama was in a lively mood in front of the audience of college journalists, a welcome respite from his battles with the regular White House press corps. 
 
He manned the podium for more than 30 minutes, calling on reporters who asked him about his immigration policies, the cost of college tuition, the Flint water crisis and civic engagement.
 
The president also touted his administration’s expansion of a student loan initiative and made a plug for his Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.
 
It was a different atmosphere from most presidential press conferences. One journalist asked Obama if his college newspaper could interview him (probably, Obama said). Another asked for a photo (the answer was no).  

He poked fun at a reporter who started her question with, “Hey.”
 
“Heyyyy,” Obama said, tilting his head with a smile. 
 
But it was when Obama spoke about the role of the press he was at his most revealing. 
 
Obama acknowledged that he and his staff “have our disagreements with the press corps and feel picked on or misunderstood.”
 
But he also singled out White House reporters for praise. 
 
“We’ve got this incredible free press that pokes and prods and calls into account our leaders,” he said.
 
Obama added “some of the best journalists in the country operate here,” joking that he doesn’t make a habit of “saying nice things” about the reporters who cover him when they're in mutual company. 
 
The president made it clear, however, he sees a downside to intense press coverage he faces on a daily basis, suggesting that it helps feed cynicism about the American political process. 
 
“It is very hard to get good stories placed,” Obama said.
 
He said government workers are “doing great work” on a daily basis “and we just take that for granted.”
 
“If out of those 2 million employees, one person screws up somewhere, which every day you can count on somebody out of 2 million people doing something they shouldn’t be doing, that’s what’s going to get reported on,” he lamented.
 
Obama hoped to impart advice on to the up and coming journalists about how to change political media coverage. 
 
“You as journalists are going to have a role to play in reducing cynicism,” the president said. 
 
“[Tough coverage] helps keep government on its toes and accountable," he continued. "But one of the things we have to think about is how do we tell a story about the things we do together that actually work so that people don’t feel so cynical overall.” 
 
Obama spoke at length about the need for young people to improve the political system by voting, suggesting it would be a focus of his post-presidency. 
 
“You can’t just complain, you’ve got to vote,” the president said. “Young people as a voting bloc are the least likely to vote, but when you do vote, have the biggest impact on elections.”
 
Obama stopped himself and noted, “You got me started. I went on a rant, didn’t I? I’ll keep on talking about this after I leave the presidency.”