Free Press? Not At This White House

I think Americans know now that the “transparency” that Obama promised during his campaign was simply a soundbite. In fact, Pres. Obama’s reluctance to be open with the White House Press reveals that Pres. Bush was actually the transparent one in comparison.

Day-to-day interaction with Obama is almost nonexistent, and he talks to the press corps far less often than Bill Clinton or even George W. Bush did. Clinton took questions nearly every weekday, on average. Obama barely does it once a week.

Obama hasn’t done a full press conference in 10 months. He prefers sit downs with selected reporters.

He has severely cut back the informal exchanges with the press pool, marking a new low in presidential access.

The Obama administration doesn’t even like routine questions:

The ferocity of pushback is intense. A routine press query can draw a string of vitriolic e-mails. A negative story can draw a profane high-decibel phone call or worse. Some reporters feel like they’ve been frozen out after crossing the White House.

Reporters say the White House is thin-skinned, controlling, eager to go over their heads and stingy with even basic information.

The numbers speak for themselves: During his first year in office, President Bill Clinton did 252 such Q & A sessions — an average of one every weekday. Bush did 147. Obama did 46, according to Towson University professor Martha Kumar.

It seems The New York Times is Obama’s favorite child, and he doesn’t care who knows it. His administration feeds them scoops because they know the Times will play it to the administration’s advantage. It’s a love/love relationship. But they went too far one time:

It’s one thing to feed a scoop to the Times. Every White House does it.

But Team Obama did it right in front of the other reporters’ faces — then, in their view, lied about it.

Last September at an off the record dinner with Obama and Emanuel, the White House reporters saw Denis McDonough whisper to Time’s David Sanger and then Sanger left abruptly to what seemed to be going to write a story. The reporters were angry, but McDonough assured them that they gave no story to Sanger. But later that night Sanger posted a big scoop about the Iranians having a secret nuclear site that had been hidden for years.

This is no surprise coming from an administration that tried to block Fox News from any interviews, and a President that vocally smeared it on air. Now they have shut out The Wall Street Journal.

We all know that White Houses want to control the message, but clearly this is out of hand.

One current focus of press corps ire are gauzy video features the White House’s staff videographer cranks out, taking advantage of behind-the-scenes access to Obama and his aides, such as a recent piece offering “exclusive footage” of first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden touring Haiti.

“I think someone out there might mistake them for news, as opposed to slick publicity handouts for the White House,” said Compton. “To me, they’re mocking what we do.”

In some cases The White House gives NO access to it’s appointees. national newspaper reporter who regularly covers the White House said. “This is wider than just the White House. I feel like the political appointees in a variety of agencies are more difficult to get to. There are people … you could reach in the Bush administration that now say, ‘That position does not speak to the press. We do not give background. We do not give anything.’’’

Really? Appointees that are neither elected nor confirmed in many cases, and reporters have NO access to them?

This is truly beyond the pale. It’s dictatorial.

In fact, the whole attitude toward the press corp is dictatorial.

None of us on this side of the fence, are surprised in the least.

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