Much has been said about the obsequious treatment candidate and President Obama has received from a press corps that willingly made the transition from sharp witted (some would say cynical) reporters covering President Bush to the sycophant mob they are today. But this same press corps’ genuflection is doing no favors for the White House by continuing a hot house honeymoon for the current administration.
This month marks the retirement of a newsman who, in his day, was at once infuriating and enlightening, a media hero for Democrats and a pernicious press conference interloper according to more than a few Republicans (myself included). Sam Donaldson is retiring after forty years at ABC. Donaldson will be missed only because of the inferior quality of the imitators that have tried to take his place. (Note: while it would be a cold day in hell before this writer ever admitted that Donaldson could accomplish anything beneficial for a Republican president, it should be noted that the recent ice storm was as bad as they claim.)
Occasionally Sam Donaldson was the perfect foil for President Reagan but he is most remembered for shouting his questions at the president in his trademark j’accuse fashion. Unlike the carefully choreographed presser that President Obama served up last week, Reagan / Donaldson more resembled Ali/Frazier with a bit of humor. While Donaldson’s antics infuriated Republicans, in retrospect they were probably a good thing because the conflict reinforced in voter’s minds that Ronald Reagan could be quick on his feet, funny and principled at the same time.
President Obama is poorly served by a flattering press. He would do well to engage his own “Sam Donaldson” but that will never happen. His adversaries know this and will exploit that weakness when he least expects it.