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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Joey Buzz says:

    No doubt the press feels they are due access for all of the fluffing they provided during the campaign. When the President got a moderately tough question instead of more fluffing he got annoyed. My My.

  2. Moonbat Boy says:

    Don’t they know their place?

  3. just me says:

    I think the media loves Obama, and I mostly thoght they gave him a nice flffy rn for office. I think Obama wants the light challenges to contine, bt the press isn’t going to go for it, they want a good story more and Obama’s leadership is it.

  4. Franklin says:

    While I think the press should be adversarial, it sounds like Obama gave them a fair warning that he wasn’t going to answer questions right then. When they persisted, he got annoyed, as do most people when they’ve already given a fair warning.

    My problem is that I don’t necessarily think he should try to be buddy-buddy with the press (although I didn’t initially have a problem with it when McCain was doing it, I’ve since changed my mind). I mean, they can and should be polite and professional with each other, but I don’t want to see reporters eating barbecue at Obama’s house and bringing him donuts, as they did with McCain.

  5. Franklin says:

    By the way, I agree with the press on the inauguration interview, but not necessarily the redundant oath. From what I’ve read, they didn’t “stifle” access, they just didn’t send out written invitations. I understand it was perhaps an “interesting” story, but I hardly think it was an “important” story.

  6. Bithead says:

    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.

    You know the drill, James… when there’s a Democrat in the WH, there are seldom hard questions asked so long as the egos of the press aren’t trampled. They’ll give him all the breathing room he wants so long as that condition is met. Think they’d give McCain that same ‘breathing room’? Me, neither.

  7. Franklin says:

    Think they’d give McCain that same ‘breathing room’? Me, neither.

    McCain, who famously called the press his ‘base’?

  8. Floyd says:

    The very premise of the headline is BS!

  9. Bithead says:

    McCain, who famously called the press his ‘base’?

    Granted he called it that, but tell me; how’d that work out?

    Yeah.

  10. Dantheman says:

    “McCain, who famously called the press his ‘base’?

    Granted he called it that, but tell me; how’d that work out?”

    Pretty well. He got the nomination when he was no better than the third choice of most of his party’s voters in large part because the press was calling the race over far too early, pushing Romney out of the race.

    He also managed to pull even in the general election in September when it should have been a blowout, in part because the press was covering for his mistakes. It was only when he looked like a doofus by suspending his campaign due to the economic crisis (when 72 hours before he said the fundamentals were sound) and then had nothing to contribute to resolve the crisis that he fell behind permanently.

  11. Bithead says:

    Pretty well. He got the nomination when he was no better than the third choice of most of his party’s voters in large part because the press was calling the race over far too early, pushing Romney out of the race.

    So as to get the weakest person into that positon possible. At which point, the press alternately ignored him, or savaged him, depending on mood and Obama’s need.

    Sorry, no sale.

  12. tom p says:

    So as to get the weakest person into that positon possible. At which point, the press alternately ignored him, or savaged him, depending on mood and Obama’s need.

    Bit, if you want to say the MSM has, in general, a liberal bias, fine. But this stretches the boundaries of credulity.

  13. Bithead says:

    Not at all, tom… and I’m hardly the first to make the observation. I say again; The Dinosaur’s love for McCain only lasted as long as he wasn’t a serious threat. Once he actually got the nonination, and all the more conservative candidates were shut out, that love affair ended.

  14. Mac G says:

    Martin was a dick so the honeymoon ended? This makes zero sense to me.

  15. Dantheman says:

    “So as to get the weakest person into that positon possible.”

    Since McCain was the strongest, not the weakest, Republican for the general election in the field (not just my opinion, but also our host’s), this is more a testament to your political cluelessness than a serious argument.

  16. Bithead says:

    Since McCain was the strongest, not the weakest, Republican for the general election in the field (not just my opinion, but also our host’s), this is more a testament to your political cluelessness than a serious argument.

    Right. That’s why Palin… who unlike McCain, is a real conservative… was outpolling and out drawing MacCain.

    Got it.

  17. Dantheman says:

    “That’s why Palin… who unlike McCain, is a real conservative… was outpolling and out drawing MacCain.”

    Umm, no. But thanks for playing.

  18. Drew says:

    “Bit, if you want to say the MSM has, in general, a liberal bias, fine. But this stretches the boundaries of credulity.”

    I’m not so sure, tom p. There is another person who finally woke up, and was complaining about treatment, even after more than a decade of softball treatment…..a certain Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    It seams to me that even a casual review of reporting on various difficult, grey area issues over the years would lead one to conclude that by 1) how much attention the media pay, thereby “validating” and keeping an issue in the public eye, 2) the all important wording they choose to use in describing the issue and 3) their use of third party “experts” or opinion leaders to portray a degree of certainty on a matter all combine to intentionally fade public perceptions one way or another.

    Odograph’s wise dinner companions excepted, I guess.

    For those doubters. When things were bleak, wasn’t the Iraq War plastered daily and nightly all over the papers, magazines and TV’s?? Now that things are better? Um, is there still a war in Iraq? I haven’t seen much reporting……

    I guess our frinds in the MSM decided to take it off the radar screen.

  19. sam says:

    You know the drill, James… when there’s a Democrat in the WH, there are seldom hard questions asked so long as the egos of the press aren’t trampled. They’ll give him all the breathing room he wants so long as that condition is met.

    I see the nuturing is in full swing.

  20. tom p says:

    Drew, with all due respect,

    There is another person who finally woke up, and was complaining about treatment, even after more than a decade of softball treatment…..a certain Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    How “softball” was the treatment the Clintons got when they were in the WH (and I mean during the healthcare debates and travel-gate, not monica-gate)?

    It seams to me that even a casual review of reporting on various difficult, grey area issues over the years would lead one to conclude that by…

    As I said before,

    Bit, if you want to say the MSM has, in general, a liberal bias, fine.

    I will not argue that statement one way or the other, at least partly because bias, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
    But when somebody says:

    So as to get the weakest person into that positon possible. At which point, the press alternately ignored him, or savaged him, depending on mood and Obama’s need.

    He is saying, “the MSM all got together, plotted a strategy for bringing down the GOP, and putting Obama in a position of unassailable power, then implemented this most nefarious plot, and even now, after they have succeeded, they continue to hold to their blood oath of silence.”
    Remember Hillary’s “vast right-wing conspiracy”? It didn’t smell any better either.
    As for…

    those doubters. When things were bleak, wasn’t the Iraq War plastered daily and nightly all over the papers, magazines and TV’s?? Now that things are better? Um, is there still a war in Iraq?

    Yes there is still a war. I continue to read about it every day(NYT), the corruption, the continuing suicide bombings, the kidnappings, the inevitable political gridlock… What you really want the MSM to report is, “Today, no American soldiers or marines died.” But that is not “news”.

  21. tom p says:

    I should have added, “the Press are like sharks with lawyers”, professional courtesy and all that… until there is blood in the water. Then watch the feeding frenzy.