Obama’s Press Honeymoon Short-Lived
Two Politico pieces linked at memeorandum show how quickly one’s relationship with the media can change when going from soon-to-be-president to the Big Cheese.
At 6:43 PM EST, Jonathan Martin and Carrie Budoff Brown offer up, “Obama flashes irritation in press room.”
President Obama made a surprise visit to the White House press corps Thursday night, but got agitated when he was faced with a substantive question.
Asked how he could reconcile a strict ban on lobbyists in his administration with a Deputy Defense Secretary nominee who lobbied for Raytheon, Obama interrupted with a knowing smile on his face. “Ahh, see,” he said, “I came down here to visit. See this is what happens. I can’t end up visiting with you guys and shaking hands if I’m going to get grilled every time I come down here.”
Pressed further by the Politico reporter about his Pentagon nominee, William J. Lynn III, Obama turned more serious, putting his hand on the reporter’s shoulder and staring him in the eye. “Alright, come on” he said, with obvious irritation in his voice. “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.”
I’m with the prez on this one. In an ideal world, a president would have the same relationship with the press that John McCain had before going into bunker mode during the general election. That is, he’d be able to have casual conversations with reporters on a regular basis without the adversarial atmosphere of a press conference. If he’s going to make himself constantly accessible to the press, there has to be some down time.
At 6:52, Michael Calderone follows up with, “Media frustration spills into briefing.”
A growing media frustration with Barack Obama’s team spilled into the open at Thursday’s briefing, with reporters accusing the White House of stifling access to his oath re-do and giving Obama’s first interview as president to a multi-million dollar inauguration sponsor.
Veteran CBS newsman Bill Plante was one of the most vocal critics, questioning the White House’s handling of Wednesday night’s second swearing in — which was covered by just a four-reporter print pool that didn’t include a news photographer or TV correspondent.
He also asked new press secretary Robert Gibbs why ABC, which paid millions to host the DC Neighborhood Ball, was granted the only inauguration day interview with President Obama — a move he equated to “pay to play.” “We have a tradition here of covering the president,” said Plante, who is covering his fourth administration.
Gibbs defended the White House’s moves, insisting aides acted in a “way that was upfront and transparent” in allowing the standard pool into the swearing-in. And Obama himself seemed mindful of making a good impression, paying a surprise visit to the White House pressroom a few hours after the briefing.
Here, I’m with the press. Not that I think Obama did anything wrong in either case but if you’re making a big deal out of “transparency” and not giving in to lobbyists, then you’ll be held to an extremely high standard in both cases.
I’d love to see a press corps that simultaneously gives the president some breathing room yet calls him when he’s not living up to his own pronouncements. We’ll never quite get there, of course, but that strikes me as the ideal balance.