March 2, 2013

The Press Officially Abdicates Its Role

This column went up at PJ Media on Wednesday evening and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Friday morning.

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As sequestration D-Day approaches courtesy of President Barack Obama, nicknamed “President Armageddon” by the Wall Street Journal, to be followed in a month by the debt-ceiling deadline, it’s important to understand just how completely the nation’s establishment press has not only abandoned its obligations in ways our Founders never anticipated, but has also chosen to become a team of de facto presidential advisers.

The first clue I detected as to what’s really happening was Jim VandeHei’s and Mike Allen’s horrific exercise in deceptive self-pity (“Obama, the puppet master”) at Politico on February 18. I was hoping it was an aberration. I should have known better.

The pair consumed over 1,800 words crying a river of phony crocodile tears because, in their view, President Barack Obama, the White House, and its permanent campaign now housed at Organizing For Action (OFA) have become so awesome and overwhelming in their message discipline, information management, and direct social media motivational efforts that it’s now absolutely impossible for any group of human beings to appropriately scrutinize their actions, let alone today’s supposedly resource-lacking, hollowed-out legacy media. Therefore, from all appearances, they’re not even going to try to do their jobs. One wonders why VandeHei and Allen don’t just stay in bed every day. Oh, I forgot. They need to continue collecting their stenographers’ paychecks.

On Sunday, confirming that the Politico pair was not alone in choosing to conveniently go into give-up mode, Bill Plante at CBS News accused the administration of “undercutting the First Amendment … it’s state-run media.” Plante’s statement sounded promising, until he revealed his fallacious line of reasoning. Just like VandeHei and Allen, he claims to be perturbed that the White House is able to “put out their own material” without the Washington press corps. It’s literally as if Plante believes there is no freedom of the press if the legacy media can’t filter any and all information coming out of our nation’s capital. So, because he can’t, it would appear that he’s also packing it in.

Let’s be clear. If Obama and members of his administration wish to go around the press and communicate directly to the American people, they’re free to do just that. In fact, if they believe their message is being inappropriately distorted by the self-appointed gatekeepers, they have a duty to go around them, as long as they stay within legal and ethical limits — which, unfortunately, they are definitely not doing.

The press response to all of this should be to redouble their “speak truth to power” efforts, with or without its supposedly precious access. Instead, they’re using the administration’s alleged Web 2.0 mastery and management of access privileges as all too convenient excuses to abandon their posts.

That the Politico column appeared at about the same time the White House Correspondents Association was whining that its members didn’t have access to Obama’s weekend golf outing with Tiger Woods was especially rich. Of all the things over which to get outraged, being shut out of a presidential golf game would, or at least should, be way down the list. But apparently, it’s the only thing on it.

Among the many more important items: What about Benghazi? If it weren’t for Republicans demanding information and justifiably holding up the nominations of Chuck Hagel and John Brennan, we wouldn’t know that Obama “was not involved at all, during the seven-plus-hour attack that resulted in the deaths of four American government employees,” including U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.

Or what about the recent run-up in gas prices? In his State of the Union speech, Obama claimed that “We buy … less foreign oil than we have in 20.” It took a British publication, the Financial Times, to point to the disingenuousness of that claim, and to note that the situation has serious potential for bad economic and geopolitical consequences:

By the end of November the US had already imported more than 450m (million) barrels of crude from Saudi Arabia, more than it imported from Riyadh in the whole of 2009, 2010 or 2011, according to figures from the US energy department. For the first time since 2003, Saudi imports accounted for more than 15 per cent of total US oil imports. The Gulf as a whole accounted for more than 25 per cent, a nine-year high. Other Gulf exporters are also seeing unusually strong US demand. By the end of November, Kuwait had shipped more oil to the US than in any year since 1998.

Last time I checked, these countries were not automatically inclined to be our friends, especially given how the “Arab Spring” is devolving into a tyranny of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and potentially elsewhere. Meanwhile, oil production in the Gulf of Mexico is still 15 percent below where it was when the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred, thanks almost entirely to the Obama administration’s deliberately slow permit approval process. If U.S. production were higher, the barrel price of oil and gas prices at the pump, both very inelastic goods, would be significantly lower.

Getting back to legalities and ethics, what about the offensive shenanigans at OFA? The outfit has turned into a presidential access toll booth for leftist high-rollers. According to the Obama-worshiping New York Times:

Giving or raising $500,000 or more (to OFA) puts donors on a national advisory board for Mr. Obama’s group and the privilege of attending quarterly meetings with the president, along with other meetings at the White House. Moreover, the new cash demands on Mr. Obama’s top donors and bundlers come as many of them are angling for appointments to administration jobs or ambassadorships.

OFA has also engaged in astroturfing, up to and including “astro-tweeting” with bogus Twitter accounts. It’s become such an execrable cesspool that even the liberal outfit Common Cause has called for its abolition.

That takes me to the Washington press corp’s presidential advisory role, one which will apparently endure for Obama’s entire second term. Right now, it appears to be telling Obama that he’s overreaching in his insistence that sequestration without even more in the way of tax increases will be the end of the world as we know it. The Washington Post warns that “some White House allies worry the slow-moving sequester may fail to live up to the hype.” The front-page New York Timesitem about OFA mentioned above is also best seen as a warning, as in: “Look, guys, there’s only so much you can get away with. Cool your jets at least for the time being, okay?”

With rare exceptions, it would appear until further notice that we’ll have to rely on the center-right blogosphere and its social media, its pundits, and its few friends in the establishment press to expose anything the Obama administration would rather the world not see or know, and then figure out how to get it out there for low-information voters to see.

Let’s get to work, people.

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