Politics
              White House press secretary Jay Carney briefs reporters at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Jay Carney in 2007: Bush’s ‘open contempt for the press’ backfired

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Patrick Howley
Political Reporter

White House press secretary Jay Carney once said that the George W. Bush administration’s “open contempt for the press” backfired and hurt Bush’s standing with the public and also his ability to govern, records reveal.

Carney, who is now the spokesman for a Barack H. Obama administration under fire for secretly obtaining the phone records of Associated Press journalists and reading a Fox News reporter’s personal emails, slammed Bush’s treatment of the press in a November 13, 2007 piece for Time magazine, in which he encouraged then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton not to make the same mistakes with regard to the press that Bush did.

“The last point about emulating Bush’s press relations is worth further analysis. It is certainly true that Clinton Administration veterans used to intersperse their criticisms of the Bush White House with grudging, and sometimes glowing, admiration for the way it brow-beat the press into submission. At least that was what you would hear during Bush’s first term. (Along the lines of, ‘If we ever get back in, we’re going to do that!’),” Carney wrote in an extended response to Michael Crowley’s New Republic piece, which accused Clinton of “emulating nothing less than the model of the Bush White House, which has treated the press with thinly veiled contempt and minimal cooperation.”

“What you’ve heard since from Clinton vets and other Democratic operatives is that the open contempt for the press exhibited by the Bush operation eventually backfired, not just as a matter of public relations but, far more gravely, as a function of governance. The assumption that journalists were the enemy and that everything they wrote was biased and wrong — about Iraq, for example — only added to the insulation of the White House from reality as the President’s public support began to plummet,” Carney wrote.

“And that insulation from reality is at least partly to blame for some of Bush’s worst mistakes — including his response to Katrina and his insistence, for several years, that the U.S. was ‘making progress’ in Iraq, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary,” Carney wrote.

“I suspect that sorry history is not lost on the Clinton team — which is made up of veterans of both New York politics and an eight-year administration. There is a difference between aggressively trying to manage the media during a campaign on what are largely political process stories and having so much disdain for reporting itself that you discount it and lose touch with reality,” Carney wrote.

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