The saying goes, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” For the Obama campaign and White House, that hand is the White House press corps. The president can give speeches until he’s blue in the face (which he often does, when he’s not at fundraisers, that is), but it’s the press–which is generally sympathetic to the president’s agenda–that report these talking points to the American people.
Today, National Review’s Jim Geraghty remarked in his essential Morning Jolt newsletter:
So if Obama tries to make the next two months about Seamus and tax returns and Bain layoffs killing steelworkers’ wives and so on . . . he’ll be advancing a bridge too far for his non-MSNBC media allies. What you or I might call the moderate-left MSM — CNN, the Washington Post editorial page, USA Today, The Economist, and most of the business and financial press — will have to acknowledge that one side is putting forth a serious solution, and the other side is trying to turn the presidential campaign into a reality-show food-fight.
Oh, and you figure snubbing the White House press corps to do sit-down interviews with Entertainment Tonight probably won’t help matters, either.
The White House press corps noticed the snub and aren’t too pleased with taking a backseat to news outlets that are devoted to breathlessly reporting on Jennifer Aniston’s engagement and Brad Pitt’s upcoming wedding.
Today one of the most evenhanded and hard-hitting voices in the press corps, ABC’s Jake Tapper, wrote a blog post that took notice of the White House’s choice of press outlets:
President Obama hasn’t formally taken questions from the White House press corps in more than two months, while on the campaign trail in Iowa yesterday he made time for reporters from People Magazine and Entertainment Tonight.
His last news conference was at the G20 in June, when he answered six questions from three reporters on the European debt crisis, the conflict in Syria, and the notion of politics stopping at the water’s edge.
The White House press corps has not formally been given the opportunity to ask questions of the president on U.S. soil since his appearance in the Briefing Room on June 8 (when he said “the private sector is doing fine.“)
His last formal White House news conference was on March 6.
While the White House may be afraid to submit the president to questioning from the political press, it is still subjecting Press Secretary Jay Carney to an increasingly frustrated media. Today’s White House press briefing wasn’t pretty, and Tapper wasn’t alone in his harsh line of questions to Carney, who did nothing but deflect and distract from constant queries on the president’s refusal to rebuke his vice president’s incendiary remarks on the GOP’s plan to put the largely African-American audience “back in chains.” During the briefing Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry pointedly asked Carney, “Ryan has put his details out there. You’re hitting them. When does the president put his details out there? Before the election or after the election? … Giving an extra eight years to Medicare kicks it down eight more years. Everyone acknowledges you have to do more.” Carney’s response? “I think you, uh, need to focus more attention on the Ryan budget rules.”
Continued disrespect from the White House for the reporters that cover it are bound to affect the coverage it receives. While the media may be in the same ideological camp as the President and his administration, they have limits on their willingness to provide positive coverage of a White House that refuses to even play along and pretend to cooperate.