President's Press Honeymoon Over
It took all of two working days for the Obama Administration's relationship with the media to get testy. The president shouldn't seem so surprised.
Barack Obama "flashed irritation" at a reporter during a surprise visit to the White House press room:
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."
Please: Obama saw Saturday Night Live during the primary season, when the comedy show lampooned the news media's obsequiousness to Obama. It doesn't take much thinking to realize the massive pressure on reporters from large segments of thepublic to prove they are not "in the tank" for the Democratic president. That's to say nothing of pressures from editors for scoops ("You tried to ask a real question, right? With follow up?"), or from readers. The president may have overestimated the power of his post-inaugural glow.
The media, meanwhile, may have expected too much from press secretary Roberty Gibbs. CNN's Ed Henry went on the air (see clip above) to show how that Gibbs acts like — gasp — any other press secretary, a reality Henry took in stride but nevertheless deemed worth pointing out to Wolf Blitzer, who was still pissed CNN didn't get invited to Obama's swearing-in do-over.
AP was upset it didn't get to take pictures of the event. CBS wasn't happy about being excluded from the do-over either, or with inaugural ball sponsor ABC getting the only inauguration-day interview with the president. The Times is mad it didn't get its usual transition-period exclusive with the president-elect. And so on. "Media frustration spills into briefing" was how Politico summed things up.
The again, CNN is still labeling at least some of its presidential coverage with the (ahem) fair and balanced slogan "Team Obama" (HA!) and the White House press corps was still laughing along with Gibbs lines like "you know layers" and the Obama administration has been around for two or three days "depending on when he got sworn in." The honeymoon may be over but there's still plenty of newlywed bliss, apparently.