This one pairs up nicely with the Daily Caller’s scoop that campaign media relations people sometimes speak poorly of competing candidates and offer negative tidbits to reporters. Color me shocked, shocked to find that the White House would hire someone to deal with bad press in online media:
The Obama administration has created and staffed a new position tucked inside their communications shop for helping coordinate rapid response to unfavorable stories and fostering and improving relations with the progressive online community.
“This week, Jesse Lee will move from the new media department into a role in the communications department as Director of Progressive Media & Online Response,” read an internal memo from Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, provided to The Huffington Post. “For the last two years, Jesse has often worn two hats working in new media and serving as the White House’s liaison with the progressive media and online community. Starting this week, Jesse will take on the second role full time working on outreach, strategy and response.”
The post is a new one for this White House. Rapid response has been the purview of the Democratic National Committee (and will continue to be). Lee’s hire, however, suggests that a portion of it will now be handled from within the administration. It also signals that the White House will be adopting a more aggressive engagement in the online world in the months ahead.
Let’s see a show of hands: How many had the first thought after reading this of Damn, why didn’t Bush do this? Be honest …
Actually, the only thing shocking about this is that the White House apparently thinks Media Matters is too inept to rely on for the effort. Normally, as Sam Stein notes, administrations would let their campaigns or parties deal with rebuttals, and for good reason. If the White House spends its time responding to every blogger criticism, it’s going to look pretty petty and distracted. Not only that, but it will also make other supposedly independent outlets like MMFA appear to be less independent and more talking-points dependent, or at least more so than now.
So this is probably a bad idea, but it’s hardly a Big Brother moment, either, as some seem to be claiming (although Lee’s choice of graphic doesn’t help his case much). This isn’t the same kind of program as Linda Douglass’ “Snitch Central,” asking people to inform on those who disapproved of the administration’s ObamaCare proposals. The administration has the right to respond to public arguments and attacks, just as anyone else does. Whether or not they tell the truth when they do is another matter, of course, and the responses will become fair game for even further critiques of the White House. That will keep Lee spinning on the same ground for longer than the White House will probably like — and it will significantly raise the profile of those bloggers that Lee takes on.
There’s an old axiom in politics: Don’t punch below your weight. Getting into fights with secondary and tertiary media outlets only benefits those organizations and individuals. One would have thought that Obama learned that lesson in his disastrous wars with Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. The only story here is that this administration doesn’t learn from its mistakes.