But a larger series of questions remain unanswered. Was it pique or policy? Is the White House assuming the role of the tough cop as opposed to Obama’s above-the-fray position? Will the administration’s approach extend to other less-than-friendly outlets? Down the road might the president engage in verbal fisticuffs of his own — and with what effect?

The self-appointed critic-in-chief could find that this is a war his presidency doesn’t need to fight — and really can’t win. With the media in a constant battle for audience, a contest with the White House or the president brings a news outlet into the spotlight of attention in a can’t-lose manner. Talk about catnip.