Since the President’s presser yesterday, I’ve marveled all over again at the lemming-like behavior of all but three members of the White House Press Corps. The three—Major Garrett (CBS), Jake Tapper (ABC), and Ed Henry (FNC)—are among a disappearing breed. They are journalists. With rare exception, the rest of the practicioners in the room are glorified stenographers whose journalistic malfeasance does the republic great harm. Puppets have no business carrying press credentials, no matter how appreciative the President is of their devotion.
There is a natural tension between the press and every President. It is a healthy, intentional feature of our national design, and it is disintegrating. Yesterday, the President’s petulant response to a question from Tapper revealed his distaste for Tapper’s ilk. Mr. Obama finds the expectation of accountability to be an insult, and never hesitates to flaunt his indignation. This is not just unbecoming; it is corrosive. It presents journalistic “tension” in a false light and trains the susceptible to abhor the type of confrontation that keeps a democratic republic free.
It has certainly trained the White House Press corps. Nobody made a peep when the President suggested that Republicans should agree with his tax plan and with his demands to personally control the debt ceiling because there was a massacre in Newtown, Connecticut last week. Are you kidding me? His suggestion is an outrage. It is manipulation, plain and simple, a training tool and a not very subtle, creeping threat against freedom.
The President’s unapologetic technique colored yesterday’s presser. The first quote, below, includes a dash of superstorm Sandy, for good measure:
And when you think about what we’ve gone through over the last couple of months—a devastating hurricane, and now one of the worst tragedies in our memory—the country deserves folks to be willing to compromise on behalf of the greater good, and not tangle themselves up in a whole bunch of ideological positions that don’t make much sense [i.e., positions that don't make sense to the President's thinking].
And more about Newtown:
But, goodness, if this past week has done anything, it should just give us some perspective. If there’s one thing we should have after this week, it should be a sense of perspective about what’s important. And I would like to think that members of that caucus would say to themselves: You know what, we disagree with the President on a whole bunch of things. We wish the other guy had won. We’re going to fight him on a whole range of issues over the next four years. We think his philosophy is all screwed up. But right now, what the country needs is for us to compromise, get a deficit reduction deal in place…not put ourselves through some sort of self-inflicted crisis every six months [i.e., give the President freedom to raise the debt ceiling without Congress' involvement]….And if you just pull back from the immediate political battles, if you kind of peel off the partisan war paint, then we should be able to get something done.
The suggestion is this: if Republicans cared about the children who perished in Newtown, they would give the President whatever he wants, even if they believe it is against the best interests of the nation. Code words like the country deserves…the greater good…what the country needs…partisan war paint…these are designed to produce sympathy for the President’s cause, and assumes that he is the noble nonpartisan in the room. Nothing about the President’s behavior suggests he has ever removed his war paint—ever. His lecture is ludicrous at best.
The following remark is equally so, and alarmingly narcissistic:
…They keep on finding ways to say no, as opposed to finding ways to say yes. And I don’t know how much of that just has to do with—it is very hard for them to say yes to me. But at some point, they’ve got to take me out of it and think about their voters, and think about what’s best for the country.
I hate to disappoint the President, but none of this is about him. (And exactly what is he suggesting?) This unseemly, unpresidential assertion either suggests an unsound emotional state or another go at manipulation, or both. In any case, it is a solicitation of sympathy. The only President in my lifetime who has come close to this sort of adolescent ploy is Richard Nixon—and he was eviscerated by the media for every false move he ever made.
As for the linking of the fiscal cliff with Newtown, it is a shameless attempt to manipulate a grieving nation. It should make your blood curdle.
But at yesterday’s presser, everyone smiled as the President prattled on and pulled the nation’s strings—proudly.
Did you smile, too?