CBS host Bob Schieffer of Face the Nation has been on a roll the past few weeks. As Ed told us last week, he started off by asking Dan Pfeiffer why he had been sent out to carry the administration’s water, rather than somebody who might actually know something. This week he was back with another “personal thought” on the nature of White House relations with the press. I’ll put in a transcript of the highlights below, but watch the whole thing. When the President is getting this kind of treatment from the Tiffany Network, something is afoot.
People have often asked me, of all the administrations you’ve covered, which was the most secretive and manipulative? The Nixon administration retired the trophy, of course. Since then, my answer has always been, whichever administration is currently in power. Information management has become so sophisticated, every administration learns from the previous one. Each finds new ways to control the flow of information. It’s reached the point that if I want to interview anyone in the administration on camera, from the lowest level worker to a White House official, I have to go through the White House press office. If their chosen spokesman turns out to have no direct connection to the story of the moment, as was the case when UN Ambassador Susan Rice was sent out to explain the Benghazi episode, that’s what we, and you the US taxpayer, get, and it usually isn’t much. So I am glad the President has asked the Attorney General to review whether his investigations into leaks is having a chilling effect on journalists, but he shouldn’t stop there. The President needs to rethink his entire communications policy top to bottom. It is hurting his credibility and shortchanging the public. And to head the review, how about someone other than the Attorney General whose department is so deeply involved? That makes no sense to me.
That may come off as fairly mild compared to some of the things we’d like to ask the White House these days, but coming from Face the Nation, it’s pretty much a boot to the face. It also manages to raise the question – in civil language – of why Eric Holder is going to wind up investigating himself. I’m sure that’s one that we’d all like to hear the President address personally. The answer should be a real hoot.