The press hates to be accused of being lapdogs for the President of the United States. Have you ever talked to a White House reporter? Trust me. They hate it.
But it’s not the press’s fault that President Obama is always treated with kid gloves, they say. The president is merely a “transformational” “puppet master” who doesn’t give journalists any access, according to a Tuesday “Behind the Curtain” report by Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei.
In some ways, it’s the lowest form of journalistic whining: Our coverage is manipulated not by our own biases, but by a lack of access.
Huh? Why would a lack of access manipulate the way you cover the president?
Is writing “The White House did not respond to a request for comment” really that painful?
Politico argues that Obama’s “mastery” involves avoiding tough questions at all costs by creating his own information-delivery system: through White House blogs, tweets, photos, videos and interviews with outlets that have little duty to report news — see “The View,” “The Daily Show” and, alarmingly, “60 Minutes,” for example.
Allen and VandeHei admit that such a strategy is “an arguably dangerous development,” but given the circumstances, that’s a shockingly tepid criticism of a White House that’s utilized this approach since day one. Having a system where the government controls the delivery of information about itself isn’t much better than having a state-controlled media.
Clearly, the White House decided long ago that it didn’t need the media to sort truth from fiction — that would inconvenience the president’s platform.
And even if the media aren’t lapdogs, they sure aren’t the attack dogs they pretend to be.
Just look at what gets them worked up.
All of a sudden, this past weekend — and a month deep into Obama’s second term — members of the White House Correspondents Association barraged Ed Henry, the group’s president, with complaints about the lack of access to the president while he golfed with Tiger Woods in Florida.
“A broad cross section of our members from print, radio, online and TV have today expressed extreme frustration to me about having absolutely no access to the President of the United States this entire weekend,” relayed Henry, in a statement.
In reaction, Politico argued Tuesday that the White House press office is “needlessly stingy with information and thin-skinned about any tough coverage,” but who’s to say the press office even knows what’s going on?
Nine days after the slaying of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, Libya, last year, White House press secretary Jay Carney would still not call the incident a “terrorist attack” when asked, despite the White House’s insistence that Obama considered it that way from the very beginning.
Was Carney out of the loop? Woefully incompetent on the issue? Or worse, was the White House lying? (Incredibly, a bit of video that “60 Minutes” somehow forgot to air would later reveal that the president wasn’t even ready to call the Benghazi attack “terrorism” the day after it happened.)
Allen and VandeHei also took multiple swipes at conservatives in their column Tuesday, presumably to preempt criticism that Politico’s top brass was acknowledging the president’s ability to manipulate their coverage.
“Conservatives assume a cozy relationship between this White House and the reporters who cover it,” they wrote. “Wrong.”
But where’s the evidence for this? Who says conservatives don’t view most White House reporters as both access-starved and reflexively liberal? It’s a lazy accusation.
Allen and VandeHei even admit that when faced with a lack of clarity, White House reporters are prone to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, in the hopes of not hurting their chances at the coveted “presidential interview.”
“He gets more-favorable-than-not coverage because many staffers are fearful of talking to reporters, even anonymously, and some reporters inevitably worry access or the chance of a presidential interview will decrease if they get in the face of this White House,” they write.
But not even that makes any sense.
As Politico notes, “The president has not granted an interview to print reporters at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, POLITICO and others in years.” (Yes, Politico has a free print edition.)
So in Politico’s view, we’re left with a White House press corps that is endlessly chasing the fantasy of an interview with a president that doesn’t want to sit down with them by constantly giving Obama the benefit of the doubt in millions of lines of news copy?
That’s bad news for America.
Last year, President Obama announced a new initiative clearing the way for young illegal immigrants to avoid any chance of deportation. The Daily Caller’s Neil Munro broke decorum during the Rose Garden announcement by interrupting the president with a question about the sweeping initiative.
The president answered the question, albeit angrily, and Munro was excoriated by his colleagues in the press.
It would be the last question Obama fielded from a reporter for months.
When a group of reporters finally spotted the president walking toward Marine One on Monday night, the reporters shouted one question in unison: “Did you beat Tiger?!”
Obama just smiled and flew away.
No, the media aren’t lapdogs. But as Politico sees it, they wouldn’t mind a little petting.
Vince Coglianese is The Daily Caller’s senior online editor.