Monday, February 18, 2013

A Good Walk Unspoiled

By Charles Cullen

You may already be aware that the White House Babysitting Service, also known as the White House Press Corps, went nuts recently because they weren't granted full access to the President's golf outing with Tiger Woods. While this might seem like a story directly from “The Daily Show,” it isn't. Their outrage is very real, and very, very silly.

This President has been hounded for myriad made up scandals. I'm going to pick one; feel free to insert your own—the birther scandal—which received wall to wall coverage ... even though anyone with a brain not covered with the worst comb-over in history knew the whole thing to be baseless.

I find it highly unlikely that any reporter clamoring to walk the links with Obama wanted to ask him serious questions about drone strikes, economic policy, or the Hagel confirmation. Perhaps they were worried that he would fudge the numbers on his score. Maybe take a drop without accepting the penalty? Come to think of it, maybe we do need to see his long-form scorecard.

The sad fact, for reporters at least, is that there's a pretty good case to be made for Obama not granting the Press Corps any access at all. On the rare occasion they get something right, they find the need to insert the inevitably ludicrous Republican side and just “teach the controversy.” They also generally get scooped by bloggers anyway.

The President has made it a point to make himself available to the American people directly through new media — online chats, looped phone calls where ordinary citizens can ask him questions directly, and constant updates from his government website.

Since reporters have been behaving like children, Obama has begun treating them accordingly. You wouldn't force your toddler to waddle along the golf course, would you? Well, neither would Obama.

This is not George “Brush Clearin'” Bush, who, by the way, was famously skittish when it came to engaging the press. This is a man who understands that no matter what he does, a vast majority of the press will simply make something up and call it news.

I saw this habit first hand at the Democratic National Convention. Reporters from austensably reputable news sources would write “quotes” from speakers including the President before the speaker in question had uttered these “quotes.” These “quotes” would then be reported as gospel on talk-news shows, crowed about on talk radio, and so the cycle would continue; a self sustaining nonsense machine.

If reporters wish more access to the President, they need only to act less like petulant children, and more like reporters. A good start would be the reporting of facts.

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