Back In April, we learned though a former White House advisor speaking to The New Republic, that “There’s only one paper the president reads, that’s The New York Times.” In a new book, MSNBC editor Richard Wolffe paints a portrait of a president obsessed with the opinion of the Times’ editorial page. After each negative editorial “the president would summon his communications team to discuss the critical coverage,” Wolffe writes.
Forget the fact that the idea of a sitting president being so myopic, bubbled, and unwilling to consider alternate opinion is a little scary; what all of this might help to explain is why some are wondering if the New York Times is running the White House’s frantic and widely criticized Syria policy.
As my colleague Larry O’Connor wrote earlier today, during the most schizophrenic days of Obama’s decision-making process with respect to Syria, the president was in contact with a New York Times that was, at the time and with regular editorials, using its opinion pages to slow down Obama’s unilateral march towards war.
Then, on August 29, Obama met with the Times’ editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal, in what Michael Calderone describes as an off-the-record
discussion with Rosenthal and some members of the editorial board, according to sources familiar with the meeting. Times opinion columnists David Brooks, Gail Collins and Ross Douthat also attended, but editors for the paper’s news pages did not.
The following day, on August 30, Times’ editors wrote “[E]ven in the best of circumstances, military action could go wrong in so many ways; the lack of strong domestic and international support will make it even more difficult.”
That very same evening, Obama shocked everyone, including his own Cabinet, by announcing he would seek Congressional authorization for his war.
Even the president’s former defense secretaries concede that American foreign policy has been in a tailspin ever since.
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