Say what you will about the weekend habits of BPI’s resident faculty. Unlike the Beltway press corps, our faculty don’t hang out in the whine cellar. (More)
I stay out of the BPI
wine cellar library. It may surprise you to learn that there aren’t a lot of books down there. Or it may not surprise you. Anyway, I do most of my research online and Chef gave me her old e-reader when she got her new tablet. She even helped me get it up into Árbol Squirrel, so I can read books in my office. I downloaded some teen books for Nancy and Michelle too, so we’re pretty much set.
I also avoid the
wine cellar library because I don’t want to look like this. And that’s pretty much what the Beltway press corps have looked like since Friday, when they were told they couldn’t follow President Obama around on his golf weekend in Florida.
This is a very big deal, according to Fox News correspondent Ed Henry:
Speaking on behalf of the White House Correspondents Association, I can say a broad cross section of our members from print, radio, online and TV have today expressed extreme frustration to me about having absolutely no access to the President of the United States this entire weekend. There is a very simple but important principle we will continue to fight for today and in the days ahead: transparency.
I don’t break the news. It’s already broken when I find it. So I’m not the first to observe that this was hardly the best molehill on which to plant the First Amendment Flag of Media Access. As Mother Jones‘ Kevin Drum wrote:
Yep. They “neared rebellion” not over OLC memos or drone strikes or FOIA tardiness or leak prosecutions, but over their inability to ask Obama questions – tough ones! penetrating ones! – before and after he hit the links. Sheesh.
When the White House press corps made its plea for greater access to President Obama, they were hoping to force the administration to cooperate on an issue that has frustrated them since the earliest days of Obama’s presidency. But by choosing to raise their voices over a golfing vacation – rather than, say, a foreign or domestic policy issue – the press corps may have blown its chances for public sympathy, and even damaged its own reputation.
Those shallow minds spread themselves thinner with a long, rambling rant calling President Obama a “puppet master” because, well, here they are:
By no means does Obama escape tough scrutiny or altogether avoid improvisational moments. And by no means is Obama unique in wanting to control his public image and message – every president pushes this to the outer limits. His 2012 opponent, Mitt Romney, was equally adept at substance-free encounters with reporters.
But something is different with this White House. Obama’s aides are better at using technology and exploiting the president’s “brand.” They are more disciplined about cracking down on staff that leak, or reporters who write things they don’t like. And they are obsessed with taking advantage of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and every other social media forums, not just for campaigns, but governing.
Well boo hoo. They continue:
They are also masters of scrutiny avoidance. The president has not granted an interview to print reporters at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, POLITICO and others in years. These are the reporters who are often most likely to ask tough, unpredictable questions.
I’ll wait while you climb back into your chair. Welcome back.
As for whether Beltway reporters “ask tough, unpredictable questions,” Drum writes:
They ask predictable questions based on whatever the opposition party happens to be kvetching about at the moment, and that represents the limit of what they can do. I’m pretty sure you could give Mike Allen a ten-hour interview with the president and he still wouldn’t be able to nail him down on a tough policy question of any importance.
Judging by this hard-hitting 2008 Mike Allen interview with then-candidate Obama, Drum is probably correct. Veteran Beltway bloviator Roger Simon spent an entire column speculating on whether President Obama was afraid to be seen with “controversial” Tiger Woods.
All of this from the same whiners who couldn’t be bothered to report on the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, due to what The New New Deal author Michael Grunwald calls a “bias toward laziness and groupthink.” As Esquire‘s Charlie Pierce put it:
So don’t cover the White House from the White House. The Executive Branch is a big operation with many offices in many places. Perhaps there might be a hint of what the White House is doing Out There Somewhere.
Alas, that approach might lead to a story that required more grunt work than, say, gossiping about President Obama’s golf swing or what he and Woods talked about. The kind of grunt work a fledgling reporter at a midsized city newspaper might do. The kind of grunt work the Beltway press think unpaid interns should do.
They’re beyond that sort of thing. Their job is to grumble about not being allowed to “ask tough, unpredictable” questions like why he chose to play golf with a “one of the best golfers ever, but one who was notorious as a serial philanderer.”
Pop open a bottle of Chateaux Fauxrage 2013, Beltway pundits. And have some cheese with that whine.
Good day and good nuts.