When It Doesn’t Matter, The White House Press Corps Act Like the White House Press Corps

For the first time since the election and the breaking of the Petraeus scandal, White House spokesman Jay Carney held a full briefing with the White House Press Corps today. And what a shock it was to see the White House Press Corps actually act like the White House Press Corps.

It was wonderful — near glorious! They were aggressive, energetic, skeptical, curious, wouldn’t take no for an answer, and asked a number of penetrating questions and follow-ups.

Except, none of it mattered, and they all knew it. Which isn’t to say that the Petraeus story isn’t a legitimate story, but when it came to a legitimate story that actually was a White House story, other than Jake Tapper, there was no energy whatsoever in that briefing room.

Which is why the White House Press Corps felt safe acting like the White House Press Corps. It was all an act, a show, a way to feel like genuine reporters again. But they all know this scandal will ultimately have nothing to do with the White House, or Obama. As it widens, in fact, it’s trajectory moves away from the White House and towards the military and F.B.I.

You could tell, though, that the White House Pres Corps loved acting like the White House Press Corps again; you could tell that even though it was completely meaningless and all for show. Still, you could sense how much they enjoyed themselves and that old Bush-era sensation that comes with digging into a story, doggedly questioning power, and feeling like you’re on the hunt.

What a gift it was for our poor, deprived Media Class to be able to play dogged reporters again, and over a big story involving a government scandal that they will forever ensure is compartmentalized as far away from Libya and the White House as possible. What a gift it must have been to feel the old juices old juices flowing and to grill Jay Carney, but in a safe environment that can’t hurt Obama’s place in history.

Of course, with Libya, the White House Press Corps have had an opportunity for over two months now to do what they did today — but for real.

They didn’t, though, and they never will. But at least they found out today that they still can — you know, when they want to.