This is the second time that Barack Obama has broken the agreement to have the White House press corps close at hand in case some breaking news occurs. The first time came when Obama ditched the press corps to watch his daughter’s soccer game, a clumsy cloak-and-dagger that had White House correspondents running all over town. This time, the President ditched them in the middle of something a little more important — and newsworthy:
Last night, the White House sent the press corps — which by agreement stays close to the president in order to report on any incident — back to Toronto, leaving the president 150 miles behind. In the wee hours of this morning, the crew of a dozen or so reporters and photographers in the press corps got back on a bus and returned to Muskoka for the day’s events.
It is highly unusual for the president to shun his permanent media detail that way, particularly at a high-profile event in a remote location. One White House aide speculated that it was due to scarce accommodations in Muskoka — which is a resort area. But Mr. Obama, who’s been quite vocal in his disdain for the press at times, has blown off his press corps in the past. The White House Correspondents’ Association complained to press secretary Robert Gibbs recently when the president left the White House on a Saturday, avoided the waiting press corps, and attended his daughter’s soccer game in Northwest D.C. This is a far more significant offense than that one, and is likely to draw another complaint.
One can excuse ditching the press corps in order to spend some quality time with the kids, even if the White House botched the effort. However, Obama is attending the G-8 and G-20 summits to represent the US in his official capacity as head of state. That’s not a private function, and the White House shouldn’t have sent the press out of the area. What did they want to keep from the media?
Every President has been vocal about disdain for the press at times. The disdain comes with the territory, mainly because Presidents don’t like to answer a lot of questions from the media. Certainly this one doesn’t; he went 309 days between press conferences, and only broke that string because Obama was fumbling the Gulf response so badly that he needed to get some face time on television.
The irony is, of course, that the media helped get him elected, thanks to the free ride they gave Obama in the election by failing to pursue his ties to the Chicago Machine with a tenth of the enthusiasm that the media later showed about the inner workings of Wasilla, Alaska. (John Ziegler has an entire documentary about it.) The love affair, the White House press corps has discovered, is completely one-sided.