It’s a long piece, but don’t be daunted. This is the most fun you’ll have all day. If you can’t spare time for all of it, at least read the section on “Getting mad.” Oh, and the part in the Gibbs section where Gibbsy sets up a big dinner with the press corps during a trip to Prague and then just flakes out. The nutshell:
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 nonexistent, 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 e-mails. 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 toward 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.
A reporter from the New Yorker quoted in the piece seems surprised to find them still practicing campaign-style message control, which is not unlike being surprised to find McDonald’s serving fast food. Hasn’t the “perpetual campaign” been part of their strategy since the beginning, replete with maintaining their 2008 online presence (even if it has been underutilized) and conducting whirlwind national tours to push their platform (even if they are spectacularly unsuccessful)? Advertising is their core business, and advertisers are necessarily control freaks. Beyond that, though, The One frankly can afford to tell the press to piss off. He knows their political sympathies will never let them really turn on him, especially with the wicked Republican “teabaggers” suddenly threatening Democratic power. And he knows that widespread contempt for the media will never allow the public to side with them against him — due in part, ironically, to the fact that the media itself helped shape perceptions of this guy as being as guileless as a cross between Bambi and Jesus. I make a living off criticizing The One and even I can’t help relishing the thought of him flipping off some of the same people who sold him as a type of avatar sent to deliver America from its political and racial sins. You wanted him? You got him. Be more careful next time.
Update: From the Anchoress:
It reminds me a little of that scene in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, when Ferris opines that Cameron will marry the first girl who has sex with him, but “She won’t respect him,” Ferris says, “’cause you can’t respect somebody who kisses your ass. It just doesn’t work.”