Smelling the Blood in the Water
By William Warren
Certain members of the media are starting to catch a whiff of something pungent emanating from the new Obama Administration. In fact, it smells an awful lot like the hostility towards the press and lack of transparency Mr. Obama pledged to eschew as President of the United States.
And the once lolling lapdogs can't be too thrilled.
Unfortunately for those who had hoped otherwise, President Obama has demonstrated a profound antipathy towards any press question bearing even an iota of substance beyond whether he had located the White House gym or had shot hoops on the White House hardwood. The latest media outlet with which Obama has found great displeasure is none other than the D.C. based newspaper, The Politico.
According to reports, President Obama paid a surprise visit to members of the White House press corps last Thursday to make nice and buddy up. But he was quickly taken aback when asked a somewhat pointed question.
Jonathan Martin of the Politico seized the golden opportunity of Obama's maiden visit to ask the president about former weapons manufacturer lobbyist William Lynn, whom Mr. Obama has tapped to be his deputy secretary of defense. The appointment is a clear violation of Mr. Obama's earlier dictum of no lobbyists in key positions. And to his credit, Mr. Martin thought his readers might just wonder why.
With what is described as “obvious irritation,” President Obama retorted:
“I came down here to visit. I didn't come down here—this is what happens. I can't end up visiting you guys and shaking hands if I am going to grilled every time I come down here.”
When Mr. Martin further pressed Mr. Obama for an answer, the President placed his hand on the reporter's shoulder, stared him down, and with a much more serious and angry tone said:
"All right, come on. We will be having a press conference, at which time you can feel free to [ask] questions. Right now, I just wanted to say hello and introduce myself to you guys— that's all I was trying to do."
This latest incident, coupled with the closed-off re-administering of the Presidential Oath of Office last Wednesday night, and the less than ideal press briefing by Robert Gibbs the following day, may actually cause the formerly supine mainstream media to perk up and look askance.
And who can forget the Chicago Tribune reporter whom the then President-elect silenced after he asked a tough question about the scandal-plagued Governor Blagojevich? Or how about the three reporters from McCain-endorsing newspapers that were jettisoned from his campaign plane early in November?
It is now abundantly clear that Mr. Obama enjoys the press when they're convenient and loathes them when otherwise. (Call it the “Obama I'm-Not-Thrilled-When-I-Get-Grilled Doctrine.”) This environment, of course, fosters anything but good tidings between the Chief Executive and the self-described “watchdogs” in the press.
Sensing this narcissistic flaw in the new president, it is likely the media will abandon their wide-eyed admiration for Barack Obama. To paraphrase the poet, “Hell hath no fury like a lapdog scorned.”
If the past is prologue, the more effort Obama exerts to sequester himself away from the prying gaze of the press, the more effort the press will exert to break down the walls of separation. The President must understand that he is the Chief Executive now and that the days of getting by with a smile and a handshake may well be over.
And for the rest of us, that whiff of something pungent emanating from the West Wing press room might be from the mass melting of friendship rings, the inevitable outcome of puppy love gone awry.
William Warren is a contributing editor of ALG News Bureau.