Love is a many splendored thing – except when the feeling isn’t mutual. Then, love stinks. That’s the position journalists find themselves in as their love for President Barack Obama has been a one-way street.
The rejection is much harsher than screening their calls. Obama has done everything to keep them away except take out a restraining order. The latest examples of mistreatment include actions by both the Defense Department and government agencies in the Gulf clean-up. In both cases, journalists have been restricted in ways that have made scribes scream.
No wonder they call it a “crush.”
The American media fell in love at first sight with Obama when he gave what CBS called his “electrifying” keynote speech before the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Then journalists wooed him throughout the presidential campaign – with election news stories looking like Democratic campaign ads. Now nearly a year-and-a-half into the marriage, they’ve discovered an awful truth about modern love – Obama is the most anti-press president in modern history.
Their love story gone bad is so heart-wrenching that it could be a country song about how he done them wrong. Only it’s not; these are current events.
It’s easy to wonder how supposedly cynical, professional journalists could be this schoolgirl-naïve. But then again, CNN had Octavia Nasr “objectively” covering the Middle East for 20 years before they realized she openly supported the terrorist group Hezbollah. In short, journalists believe what they want to believe.
It’s about time someone explained their love is unrequited. Obama never loved the media. They just adored him so much they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, see it.
During the 2008 campaign, reporters from three daily newspapers were kicked off Obama’s plane. All three papers had endorsed his opponent. But that was OK, many journalists must have thought, since those were conservative media outlets.
When Obama’s campaign bashed Fox News or Drudge, it didn’t matter since the targets were once again part of the vast right wing conspiracy.
Then came the coronation, er, inauguration, and all was going to be right (or left) with the world.
Only relations with the media got noticeably worse. The National Newspaper Publishers Association presented Obama the Newsmaker of the Year award and the event was closed to the press. -- Even journalists should have seen that as a bad omen.
Obama went on the offensive. He didn’t just attack Fox News, though he did that often enough.
The attacks expanded, including NBC sister network CNBC. The White House went after Tea Party inspiration Rick Santelli and even liberal host Jim Cramer. The administration assault on Cramer for criticizing Obama turned into a full-scale lefty bashfest with even comedian Jon Stewart appearing in a starring role.
By July of his first year in office, some in the press figured out the relationship wasn’t going well. CBS News White House correspondent Chip Reid and former columnist Helen Thomas (pre-meltdown) got into a spat with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs over how Team Obama was trying to control the press. “Nixon didn’t try to do that,” Thomas said. “They couldn’t control (the media). They didn’t try. What the hell do they think we are, puppets?” Thomas asked.
One year later, Obama is pulling strings on the press over every major news item of the day. In that time, the president who had promised his administration would be the “most open and transparent in history” went almost a year without a press conference. When truly major issues loomed, the press was shut out or shut down.
As oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico, Obama’s first reaction was to limit criticism. Passage through or above the area was shut down by either the Coast Guard or the Federal Aviation Administration. CBS, Associated Press, Mother Jones and The Times-Picayune all complained about local and federal authorities and British Petroleum contractors inhibiting their reporting.
It took nearly a month before heart-wrenching images made it into the news. Don’t blame BP for that.
Obama and Carol Browner, his energy and climate czar, have said the government has been in charge all along. She told “Meet the Press” May 30, “don’t make any mistake here, the government is in charge.”
Yeah, that’s the problem.
The Coast Guard cracked down on getting within 65 feet of any sort of clean-up operation. CNN’s Anderson Cooper summed it up nicely: “Transparency is apparently not a priority with [Coast Guard Commandant] Thad Allen these days.” Nor his boss.
That plan was so offensive to journalists that the Coast Guard dropped it – 82 days into the crisis. Even the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is holding back data from the press about spill damage.
Just a week ago, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates followed up the Gulf press fiasco with one of his own, limiting media access to the military. This came after the Rolling Stone story about Gen. Stanley McChrystal that led to his departure.
In a fit of Watergate-era language, Gates wrote: “Revealing unclassified, but sensitive, pre-decisional, or otherwise restricted information is also prohibited unless specifically authorized.” The document went on to limit access to military personnel and understandably upset journalists and the group Reporters Without Borders.
Politico delved into the president’s media problem in a July 15 piece called “Why Obama loses by winning.” The article detailed how “he and the West Wing are not especially good at politics, or communications.” The “not good” part is an understatement with the press.
“In what would surprise media critics outside Washington, many reporters don’t much like Obama or his gang either. They accurately perceive the contempt with which they are held by his White House, an attitude that undoubtedly flows from the top. Insults and blustery non-responses, f-bombs flying, are common in how West Wing aides speak to reporters.”
When your lover keeps mistreating you, holding you in contempt, cheating on you and more, normal people take that to mean the relationship has problems. But journalists have too busy humming “l.o.v.e.” and doodling “I <3 Obama” on their notepads to realize their quest for endless love has failed. Even those who have wised up haven’t shown it.
It’s time journalists moved on and started doing their jobs.
Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture. His column appears each week on Foxnews.com. He can also be contacted on FaceBook and Twitter as dangainor.
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