Doc Cleveland: The Fire This Time
Maiello: Prufrock as PowerPoint
As a citizen of the United States of America and employer of Barack Obama, I must protest that I have not yet once been invited to the White House, not even for a beer in the Rose Garden even though I a) like beer and b) am not allergic to roses.
Clearly, President Obama is afraid that I might ask a tough or unpredictable question or simply level him with some sort of criticism that will leave him wondering, "do I really even want to finish this second term?"
In fact, it seem that I am not the only American with this problem. Oh, sure, the President will stop to make fun of Donald Trump for a second, but he largely hasn't even addressed most of us directly.
Meanwhile, we learn from The Politico (via Gawker because their take is more entertaining) that the White House has engaged in:
"Extensive government creation of content (photos of the president, videos of White House officials, blog posts written by Obama aides), which can then be instantly released to the masses through social media."
It's almost as if Obama has hired some sort of communications office to control his messaging. I recall a simpler America, where Presidents would set the side of a barn on fire and just tell us who was getting killed by drones and why. If these "fireside chats" were good enough for Presidents like Abraham Lincoln and Charles Guiteau, they should be good enough for Obama.
Okay, Politico, I am responding with hyperbole. But Obama is not your assistant any more than he is my employee. We citizens, journalists and non-journalists alike can ask for certain things. If we must, we can use the law to get those things. If, as Gawker points out, the White House dumps a bunch of documents on you on Friday night well, you can use your Saturday to review them. Or not. Maybe you don't have to be first. Maybe a more careful review, conducted on Monday, will move the story forward in a better way. Some of the best investigative work is done by writers with no real access and no solid deadlines. If you're going to report a big story for months then whether you get your documents on Friday at 6 p.m.or Wednesday at noon really doesn't matter. A big, important story is big an important a couple of days from now. That's how you measure how big and important it is.
Maybe this is what we've lost sight of and this is, also, what a publication like The Politico is supposed to help us avoid -- you don't cover the White House by chasing Tweets and golf outings. It is nice to get an interview with the President. It's really nice to get a candid interview with him though, you might have noticed, he's actually spent a career dealing with unexpected questions and managing to stay on message, they all have.
In my journalism days I used to tell sources, particularly when things got contentious, "relax, it's not a pop quiz." When people say, "my office will get you that information," they aren't stonewalling (unless they never deliver). But getting somebody to misspeak -- a President, a Senator or a CEO, isn't some sort of accomplishment.
I dare say that Politco is missing a thousand stories that are likely hidden in plain sight, in public documents issued by state and federal government agencies all of the time.
The Politico whine is dereliction of duty.