The Obama White House looks like it is has taken a page out of the playbook of the late Nixon Press Secretary Ron Ziegler. In a fit of pique, during the 1972 presidential campaign, Ziegler barred Rolling Stone reporter and Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson from flying on the lead campaign press plane, notwithstanding that Thompson had been covering the race, that there was space on the plane, and that Thompson was an accredited reporter. Thompson's problem was that he did not report things the way the Committee to Reelect the President would have liked things to have been reported.
Well, Robert Gibbs,the Obama press secretary, is doing all he can to follow in Ziegler's footsteps. Gibbs is trying to get the news organizations that cover the White House to drop Fox from the White House press pool. Pressed on his efforts to get the press to dump Fox from the pool, Gibbs demurred. Despite repeated questioning by ABC's Jake Tapper, Gibbs would not give a straight answer on where the White House stood on Fox and pool coverage.
It does not look like Gibbs and the White House are meeting with the success they had hoped for. On the Atlantic Monthly's Web site, Matt Cooper was critical of the White House's approach. According to Cooper, if the White House could talk to Iran it could surely talk to Fox. Jay Leno has also weighed in. Leno quipped that the administration was raising another 40,000 troops -- to fight Fox. In the Senate, Minority Whip Lamar Alexander chided Obama for Nixon-like tactics. This is not where Obama thought he would be.
Now today’s New York Times reports that Fox’s competitors in the press pool refused to comply with a government effort “to exclude Fox from a round of interviews with the executive-pay czar Kenneth R. Feinberg.” According to The Times, a “pool” camera was to tape the interviews. Guess what? The administration blinked. Fox stayed in the mix.
Perhaps it is time for Gibbs and this administration to act like grown ups. Perhaps it is time for Gibbs and this administration to take a different page out of the 1972 campaign playbook. -- After being thrown off the Nixon plane, Thompson sat down for a whole bunch of drinks with Nixon speechwriter Pat Buchanan. Thompson was back on the plane.
If Obama can get the prof and the cop together for a beer, he should be adult enough to call a truce and sit down with Fox's Roger Ailes over a bottle of Jack Daniels.
Lloyd Green served in the Justice Department during the George H.W. Bush presidency.