The Politico has an exhaustive piece out today on the growing rift between the White House Press Corps and the Obama administration. There are quite a few comments by members of the press corps that are out of character with the fawning acolytes we saw following Candidate Obama around the campaign trail in 2008. Here’s a montage of complaints that frame the relationship between the two sides today:
— Day-to-day interaction with Obama is almost non-existent, 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.
— The ferocity of pushback is intense. A routine press query can draw a string of vitriolic emails. 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.
— Except for a few reporters, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs can be distant and difficult to reach – even though his job is to be one of the main conduits from president to press. “It’s an odd White House where it’s easier to get the White House chief of staff on the phone than the White House press secretary,” one top reporter said.
— And at the very moment many reporters feel shut out, one paper – the New York Times – enjoys a favoritism from Obama and his staff that makes competitors fume, with gift-wrapped scoops and loads of presidential face-time.
“These are people who came in with every reporter giving them the benefit of the doubt,” said another reporter who regularly covers the White House. “They’ve lost all that goodwill.”
ABC’s Ann Compton seems particularly upset:
( The President) has severely cut back the informal exchanges with the press pool, marking a new low in presidential access.
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.
“Too many of the president’s meetings are ‘no coverage’ for my taste,” said ABC’s Ann Compton. “That is a stark reduction in access for us.”
…Compton said that if the Obama White House’s sense of being besieged by the press is authentic it bespeaks a kind of innocence born from a candidate and a president who have never confronted a full-on Washington feeding frenzy.
“They ain’t seen nothing yet,” the longtime ABC reporter said. “Wait ’till they have to start really circling the wagons when someone in the administration under attack, wait ’till there’s a scandal, wait ’till someone screws up, then it’ll get hostile.”
Some reporters in the press pool don’t like the pushback when they write something that upsets the White House:
And just what happens when you upset the White House?
Among White House reporters, tales abound of an offhand criticism or passing claim low in an unremarkable story setting off an avalanche of hostile e-mail and voice mail messages.
“It’s not unusual to have shouting matches, or the email equivalent of that. It’s very, very aggressive behavior, taking issue with a thing you’ve written, an individual word, all sorts of things,” said one White House reporter.
I have one take on this extraordinary recitation of complaints: grow up. When these reporters in the White House press pool start acting like real reporters they’ll get some R-E-S-P-E-C-T. What else did they expect to receive after serving for almost a year as an extension of the official Obama for President Campaign? These complainers need to decide what they care about most: access to the president or old fashioned gum shoe reporting? The stories are out there. The reporter that actually digs and starts causing problems for this President and his administration will be the first one invited in for an interview. But don’t hold your breath waiting on that.