By Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy on April 28, 2010 at 9:00 PM in Bamboozling, Bill Clinton, Bush administration, Campaign promises, Current Affairs, General Election, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Media Bias, Media Handling of Story, MSNBC, New York Times, Obama Administration, Obama's Broken Promises, Obama's Media Censorship, President Barack Obama, Rod Blagojevich, Transparency, Washington Post
One would certainly think so if this article is any indication, “Why Reporters Are Down On President Obama“. Color me a bit surprised to learn that reporters were down on Obama. I could be jaded after the overwhelmingly positive articles of him during the election, especially compared to favorable articles on Hillary Clinton, but I hadn’t noticed that they were “down on President Obama,” had you?
Heck, just today, the Washington Post put out a poll it did with ABC News in which the headline says things might be a bit hairy for incumbents for the next election, but that overall, Obama is seen as trustworthy on a number of issues. But what you DON’T learn in that article is the breakdown of the 1001 people polled, and how Obama’s positive numbers could be higher now than they were in a recent Gallup poll. Well, HotAir explains:
Why did Obama and the Democrats still manage to hold more trust over their GOP opponents? The pollster talked to more of them, that’s how — and more of them than they did in the last poll, relative to Republicans. In the March 26th poll, the WaPo/ABC sample had a D/R/I split of 34/24/38, giving Democrats a partisan advantage of 10 points in the poll. This time, the sample’s split went 34/23/38, and even the independents split in favor of the Democrats, 19/17, up from 17/17 last month. Just to give some perspective, the partisan gap from their November 2008 poll just before the election was nine points — and 26% of the sample was Republicans, compared to 23% now.
Given the expanding partisan gap shown in this poll, small wonder that Obama winds up with more trust than Republicans among respondents. It’s also no mystery why the WaPo/ABC poll shows Obama adding to his job approval rating, 54/44, when every other pollster has Obama sinking. That ten-point swing in the sample makes quite a difference.
It also makes a big difference in the consolation news the Post and ABC offered Democrats. The 46/32 split for Dems on trust by party shows that Democrats would be considerably narrower than the 14-point lead this survey shows. The eleven point lead that Obama has over the GOP for trust on the economy would be completely gone, and the 4-point edge Obama enjoys over Republicans on the deficit would have more than reversed itself.
So you can see why I was a bit surprised to see the Politico story indicating the love affair with Obama was over. Yet that is the claim in this lengthy article. (Let me say up front, I will not be including the whole thing here for space reasons, but I urge you to read the whole piece.)
And now to the story itself:
One of the enduring storylines of Barack Obama’s presidency, dating back to the earliest days of his candidacy, is that the press loves him.
“Most of you covered me. All of you voted for me,” Obama joked last year at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.
But even then, only four months into his presidency, the joke fell flat. Now, a year later, with another correspondents’ dinner Saturday night likely to generate the familiar criticism of the press’s cozy relationship with power, the reality is even more at odds with the public perception.
President Obama and the media actually have a surprisingly hostile relationship – as contentious on a day-to-day basis as any between press and president in the last decade, reporters who cover the White House say.
Reporters say the White House is thin-skinned, controlling, eager to go over their heads and stingy with even basic information. All White Houses try to control the message. But this White House has pledged to be more open than its predecessors – and reporters feel it doesn’t live up to that pledge in several key areas:
— Day-to-day interaction with Obama is almost non-existent, and he talks to the press corps far less often than Bill Clinton or even George W. Bush did. Clinton took questions nearly every weekday, on average. Obama barely does it once a week.
— The ferocity of pushback is intense. A routine press query can draw a string of vitriolic emails. A negative story can draw a profane high-decibel phone call – or worse. Some reporters feel like they’ve been frozen out after crossing the White House.
— Except for a few reporters, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs can be distant and difficult to reach – even though his job is to be one of the main conduits from president to press. “It’s an odd White House where it’s easier to get the White House chief of staff on the phone than the White House press secretary,” one top reporter said.
— And at the very moment many reporters feel shut out, one paper – the New York Times – enjoys a favoritism from Obama and his staff that makes competitors fume, with gift-wrapped scoops and loads of presidential face-time.
“They seem to want close the book on the highly secretive years of the Bush administration. However, in their relationship with the press, I think they’re doing what they think succeeded in helping Obama get elected,” said the New Yorker’s George Packer.
“I don’t think they need to be nice to reporters, but the White House seems to imagine that releasing information is like a tap that can be turned on and off at their whim,” Packer said.
Okay. You know what I am going to say about this already. Had they actually done their jobs during the campaign, looked at who Obama really is, his job performance (or lack thereof), refrained from categorizing him as “cool” when he was being arrogant and aloof, maybe they would not surprised now.
And they sure would not be surprised by this, had they followed his “career”:
Much of the criticism is off-the record, both out of fear of retaliation and from worry about appearing whiny. But those views were voiced by a cross-section of the television, newspaper and magazine journalists who cover the White House.
“These are people who came in with every reporter giving them the benefit of the doubt,” said another reporter who regularly covers the White House. “They’ve lost all that goodwill.”
And this attitude, many believe, starts with the man at the top. Obama rarely lets a chance go by to make a critical or sarcastic comment about the press, its superficiality or its short-term mentality. He also hasn’t done a full-blown news conference for 10 months.
Obama’s White House aides can rightfully say they’ve set new standards for opening up access on several fronts, such as releasing previously secret visitors’ logs, expanding White House web content and offering more than 150 sit-down interviews with Obama to selected reporters.
But Gibbs is unapologetic about sometimes taking a hard line in his dealings with the press, saying it’s a response to the viral nature of modern media.
“There’s a danger in letting something go. Trust me, I read a lot of news every day. Not a day goes by that something that I didn’t pay enough attention to, or close attention to, doesn’t go from being myth to reality over the course of several hours,” Gibbs told POLITICO.
“I understand if you’re a reporter and get 95 percent right, and your word choice isn’t right on 5 percent. But that 5 percent goes on to become reality. I’ve got to live with that, when it may or may not be true,” Gibbs said. “It does make our jobs difficult.”
The correspondents association recently met with Gibbs to discuss, in the words of Bloomberg’s Ed Chen, “a level of anger, which is wide and deep, among members over White House practices and attitude toward the press.”
A few days later, Gibbs said at one of his briefings, “This is the most transparent administration in the history of our country.”
Peals of laughter broke out in the briefing room.
Hold the phone. Did they agree with Chris Matthews that a journalist’s job was to make Obama’s presidency a successful one and that’s why they gave him goodwill he did not EARN?? If so, they are unclear about the role of a journalist in a free society.
At least they acknowledged the total Obama/Gibbs “Transparency” meme with the response it deserved – laughter.
Here are their beefs with the Obama Administration:
The press’s bill of particulars boils down to this:
If you cover City Hall, you talk to the mayor. If you cover the Yankees, you’ll hang around Derek Jeter’s locker. The White House is no different, and aides past routinely filled that need by letting the press pool toss the president a couple of questions every so often, usually at one of the various events that fill his calendar every day.
Not Obama. He has severely cut back the informal exchanges with the press pool, marking a new low in presidential access.
The numbers speak for themselves: during his first year in office, President Bill Clinton did 252 such Q&A sessions—an average of one every weekday. Bush did 147. Obama did 46, according to Towson University Professor Martha Kumar.
“Too many of the president’s meetings are ‘no coverage’ for my taste,” said ABC’s Ann Compton. “That is a stark reduction in access for us.”
White House aides say Obama has hardly avoided the media. Indeed, he has done so many interviews that at times journalists have accused him of being overexposed. In his first year, Obama gave 161 interviews, according to Kumar’s tally. Bush and Clinton each did about 50.
Reporters point out that the Bush White House was no paragon of press transparency. And since the meeting with Gibbs this month, Obama took a couple of questions at a meeting with congressional leaders last week and still photographers got into a couple more events.
“I give credit to Robert for having the meeting, hearing our concerns and taking some action after the meeting to show that, while he may not agree to all the things we’re pushing for, he respects our concerns,” said CNN’s Ed Henry, the correspondents’ association’s secretary.
It’s one thing to feed a scoop to the Times. Every White House does it.
But Team Obama did it right in front of the other reporters’ faces – then, in their view, lied about it.
Say Whaaaaa?? The Obama Administration LIED about something? Yeah, like every time Obama or Gibbs open their mouths. For the rest of this particular tale of how the White House dissed a whole bunch of reporters and lied about it, click HERE.
As for the New York Times being a favorite of the Administration, Spokesweasel Gibbs had this to say:
Gibbs denied an “unnecessary advantage” to the Times, while saying it has far more reporters covering topics of interest to the White House than most outlets. Times Deputy Washington Bureau Chief Dick Stevenson said it would be “absurd” to suggest the Times doesn’t get access in certain instances that others don’t.
But Stevenson said, “Like every other journalist in Washington I would say there’s a lot more they could do in terms of access for us and everyone else. While we appreciate the instances in which they cooperate and are accessible, there are plenty of cases where they’re not terribly accessible or responsive.”
While the Obama administration’s decision to stiff-arm Fox News caused a huge dust-up for a time last year, his back-benching of the Wall Street Journal has barely generated a peep. The Journal’s White House reporter, Jonathan Weisman, occasionally vents his frustration over the near freeze-out that has left the Journal with a single exclusive interview since Obama took office.
This was news to me. I read a lot of news. How is it that this was NOT out there? I mean, the Wall Street Journal is a pretty big news source, so why was this not discussed more? If anyone knows, I’d like to hear it.
Anyone who watched MSNBC during the Primaries/Campaign is familiar with Richard Wolffe, the Obama sycophant. Well, guess who is a WH fave? You got it:
[snip] Another event that riled many in the press corps took place on March 20. The Washington Examiner’s Julie Mason confronted former Newsweek correspondent Richard Wolffe, author of a highly favorable book about the Obama campaign, when he attempted to join the White House pool on the Saturday before Congress’ big health care vote.
“You’re not in the pool,” Mason recalled telling Wolffe. “You shouldn’t be joining.” Mason said Wolffe claimed that he was there courtesy of “a special invitation from the Obama administration.” Wolffe is working on a second book on the Obama administration.
“Are you working for them officially now?” shot back Mason.
“The White House wants their friend to be in the pool and we don’t know what recourse we have,” Mason later told POLITICO. “It’s just completely unfair to the press corps and flies in the face of the concept of a free press.”
Oh, snap. And a “free press”? Yeah, I’d love to see what this country was like if we REALLY had a free press. You know, one that actually covered the differences in protests between, say, Tea Partiers and AZ Anti-Immigration people. I suppose a girl can dream, right?
As indicated above, this White House can be a tad vindictive:
And just what happens when you upset the White House?
Among White House reporters, tales abound of an offhand criticism or passing claim low in an unremarkable story setting off an avalanche of hostile e-mail and voice mail messages.
“It’s not unusual to have shouting matches, or the email equivalent of that. It’s very, very aggressive behavior, taking issue with a thing you’ve written, an individual word, all sorts of things,” said one White House reporter.
“It’s a natural outgrowth of campaigning where control of the message is everything and where a very tight circle controls the flow of information,” the New Yorker’s Packer said. “I just think it is a mistake to transfer that model to governing. Governing is so much more complicated and is all about implementation—not just message.”
One of the most irritating practices of the Obama White House is when aides ignore inquiries or explicitly refuse to cooperate with an unwelcome story—only to come out with both guns blazing when it takes a skeptical view of their motives or success.
“You will give them ample opportunity on a story. They will then say, ‘We don’t have anything for you on this.’ Then, when you write an analytical graf that could be interpreted as implying a political motive by the White House, or something that makes them look like anything but geniuses, you will get a flurry of off the record angry e-mails after you publish,” one national reporter said. “That does no good. If you want to complain, engage!”
Gibbs said the White House’s efforts to push back tend to focus on fixing factual mistakes before they take hold in the media.
“The way we live these days, something that’s wrong can whip around and become part of the conventional wisdom in only a matter of moments and it’s hard to take it, put a top on it and put in back into the box,” Gibbs said. “That’s the nature by which the business operates right now.…This isn’t unique in terms of us and it’s likely to be more true for the next administration.”
Asked about some of the more aggressive tactics, including complaints to editors, Gibbs said, “We have to do some of those things….I certainly believe anyone who goes to an editor does so because it’s something they feel is very egregious. I don’t think people do it very lightly.”
Some reporters say the pushback is so aggressive that it undermines the credibility of Obama’s aides. “The willingness to argue that credible information is untrue is at its core dishonest and unfortunately calls into question everything else the press office says,” one White House reporter said.
While some reporters note improvements since the Bush era, like more informed deputy press secretaries and assistants, others complain of rigid image control pervading the government. “The access is much poorer than the Bush administration,” one national newspaper who regularly covers the White House said. “This is wider than just the White House. I feel like the political appointees in a variety of agencies are more difficult to get to. There are people…you could reach in the Bush administration that now they say ‘That position does not speak to the press. We do not give background. We do not give anything.’ ’’
Compton said that if the Obama White House’s sense of being besieged by the press is authentic it bespeaks a kind of innocence born from a candidate and a president who have never confronted a full-on Washington feeding frenzy.
“They ain’t seen nothing yet,” the longtime ABC reporter said. “Wait ‘till they have to start really circling the wagons when someone in the administration under attack, wait ‘till there’s a scandal, wait ‘till someone screws up, then it’ll get hostile.”
Well, it seems like the press is going to have ample opportunity with the revelation of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s phone calls with Obama. We shouldn’t have long to wait to see if there is a “feeding frenzy” over THIS scandal.
And if the press actually does their job, I am sure the level of push-back will be noteworthy given what the press is receiving now:
While complaining about stories is hardly unique to the Obama administration, White House reporters charge that sometimes, aides even retaliate against reporters who cross them.
One reporter said that after he wrote a story the White House viewed as critical, aides tried to cancel meetings he’d lined up with other administration officials. “I was told very clearly the press office tried to stop those appointments going ahead,” the journalist said.
Gibbs said he couldn’t recall any such instance. “I’m sure people may have thought that, though,” he said.
While the Times clearly enjoys more access than any other publication, its perceived transgressions often get a heated and sustained response from the White House. “There certainly is no lack of friction or the appropriate tension that goes into this relationship—to put it mildly,” Stevenson said.
And that is with a favored organization. I imagine we can extrapolate to those the WH does NOT like:
[snip]“They throw some brush-back pitches every now and then,” one White House reporter for a major newspaper said. “They’ve been pretty heavy handed and have cut some people off.”
Edward Luce of the Financial Times drew the ire of Obama aides for a couple of articles arguing that decision making in the Obama administration is extremely centralized. Neither piece was a devastating indictment of the White House, but they prompted a furious reaction.
“I was just in awe of the pummeling Ed took from top White House people,” said policy blogger and New America Foundation senior fellow Steve Clemons. He began talking to White House reporters and came away convinced that what he calls an “extremely unhealthy” relationship has developed in which the White House generally cooperates only with reporters who are willing to write source-greasers or other fawning articles.
Gibbs referred questions about the Luce stories to McDonough. “Who’s Ed Luce?” McDonough said. “I’m not familiar with that.”
Clemons’s post on his findings, “Communications Corruption at the White House,” was harsh, particularly coming from a policy wonk who tends to agree with most of Obama’s stances.
“Has the bar moved so far that a reasonable piece that gives and takes a little but provides both criticism and applause, that is something White House has to respond to in such a prickly, thin-skinned way?” asked Clemons.
Um, YES!! For the gazillionith time, we tried to tell you so. We tried to get you to really, really look at this candidate instead of regurgitating whatever talking points Obama wanted you to spew for him. Or to quit transferring definitions for one word to another, like “even keeled” for “prickly,” “angry,” or “dismissive.” But would you listen? No. So on many levels, the press is getting what it has coming to it.
And that would be peachy keen-o if the press hadn’t given such a massive pass to this man who now occupies the White House, shoving through policies that are disastrous for our country, using the legal system as his personal bully under the guise of the Constitution (several things come to mind, but I’ll mention two: the DOJ supporting DADT, and Obama going after Arizona for trying to do something the Federal Government has failed to do – strengthen their border). Who knows, maybe when these reporters’ own outlets decide it’s cheaper to NOT cover their health care now that Obama got this god-awful law signed, they’ll wish they had actually done their jobs a bit better.
You know, come to think of it, they deserve pretty much what they are getting from the White House now. I’m willing to bet good money that a Clinton White House, even a McCain White House, would not be treating the press – our eyes and ears in the public arena – with such callous disregard, and even contempt. But they wanted Obama in there, and as he noted, they (most likely) voted for him.
So how does it feel now? Those Kool Aide fumes dispersing any?? If so, welcome to our world, the one you, the media, helped bring upon us. And thanks shitloads for that. Ready to do your jobs now?