For the last several years, the Obama administration has acted as though the press was an arm of the White House. They give exclusive access to friends; they punish enemies. And most of all, they don’t allow anyone in the press to know anything they don’t want them to know.
Now, with President Obama’s polling numbers dropping in swing states and the media up in arms over Obama’s non-transparency, it appears that the tail is wagging the dog: the media can now dictate how the President of the United States conducts himself in office. They can force him in front of a microphone. The question is whether they’ll ask him the right questions.
The Obama administration’s precipitous decision to open the public relations kimono came after a weekend of media griping about Obama’s opacity. It began with Jake Tapper of ABC News complaining that Obama hadn’t “formally taken questions from the White House press corps in more than two months, while on the campaign trail in Iowa yesterday he made time for reporters from People magazine and ‘Entertainment Tonight.'” That was followed by an outraged Chuck Todd of NBC News, who didn’t like the fact that the White House has been editing press pool transcripts to avoid quoting Joe Biden’s “they gonna put y’all back in chains” remark. “I think we’re going to have to change this system,” Todd said last week. “This is an outrage that they do this.”
The clamor among the DC media folks grew stronger over the weekend, when Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager, took to the airwaves to explain that Obama was doing the right thing by talking with grocery check-out line magazines rather than actual political reporters: “I don’t think that they’re more important, but I think they’re equally important. I think that’s where a lot of Americans get their news. And I think the president’s going to continue doing that.”
The outcry was deafening. And so, on Monday morning, at a press conference run by Obama press secretary Jay Carney, Obama just happened to show up to answer a few questions. You know, the ol’ “Boss Happens To Drop By A Press Briefing On A Weekend After Being Trashed By The Mainstream Media He Ignored.” One of those.
He answered some questions, told some lies, and then headed for the door. The media couldn’t have been more triumphal about the situation. “Come back!” shouted Chuck Todd as Obama made for the door. “Don’t be a stranger!” shouted Jake Tapper.
And with that, the President was gone. And the mainstream media had made its point: Obama had to dance to their tune. The question now will be whether they hold him accountable for his shoddy record, or whether they just want him to kowtow before them, after which they’ll grant him absolution.