Willing Puppets of the Obama Machine

By Dave Andrusko

The ultimate in "Super-safe, softball interviews"-- The kid glove treatment of Obama and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by Steve Kroft of CBS’s ‘60 Minute

The ultimate in “Super-safe, softball interviews”– The kid glove treatment of Obama and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by Steve Kroft of CBS’s ‘60 Minute

This really does fall under the “you can’t make this stuff up” category. POLITICO runs this story Tuesday headlined, “Obama, the puppet master” which makes the case that the Obama Administration is just too slick for reporters to cope with.

Obama creates the picture of himself  he wants because “the balance of power between the White House and press has tipped unmistakably toward the government,” according to POLITICO’s Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen. Obama is the master of the new technology/social media and the press is simply outflanked and outgunned.

Their two-sides of the same coin thesis is that Obama and his underlings control the message probably better than any administration in modern history which is why “conservatives” are wrong when they believe “that a liberal press willingly and eagerly allows itself to get manipulated.” What can they do when, in lieu of a grilling by the traditional media Obama can go on “The View” and tweet away to his heart’s content?

Woe is us, what can we do?

Also on Tuesday morning the Washington Post runs a page one story with this headline: “For second term, idealistic Obama returns.”

But if you read even with one eye open (which clearly the headline writer did not), the message is the very antithesis of idealism. This is Part 497 of the Post’s never-ending series of how Obama is thwarted by small-minded Republicans in which we learn that Obama is going to ram his agenda down the throat of those who disagree with him.

The Post was not outslickered by Obama. They’ve willingly bought into the narrative Obama has spun since he was first running for President. He is too good for his own good and only when he gets past being too nice will his enemies fear him and results pour down like rain.

Which is not to say that VandeHei’s and Allen’s piece is uninteresting. It is, but much of that is because the account is unintentionally dripping in irony. The very behavior Obama and his underlings demonstrate toward reporters is very much the way they treat Republicans!

For example, we’re told,”The White House gets away with stuff I would never have dreamed of doing. When I talk to White House reporters now, they say it’s really tough to do business with people who don’t see the need to be cooperative.” That, by the way, from Mike McCurry, who was President Clinton’s press secretary “during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.” So, if anyone knows a thing or two about getting away with stuff…

“It’s really tough to do business with people who don’t see the need to be cooperative.” It took five years plus to figure out that?

The test, always, is what would the response have been had it been President George W. Bush rather than President Barack Obama? It simply isn’t enough to write meaningless throwaway lines about how “all administrations” try to shape coverage. We’re adults, we get that any President would prefer to be bathed in glowing coverage that sullied with criticism.

But what if President Bush did the equivalent? “When Obama nominated Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court, she gave one interview — to White House TV, produced by Obama aides.”

Or what about this? “One authentically new technique pioneered by the Obama White House is 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. They often include footage unavailable to the press.” At the risk of stating the obvious, this has some very ominous parallels to cultures that have zero respect for the role of the media in enlightening its citizens.

Or, finally, according to VandeHei and Allen, reporters “find his staff needlessly stingy with information and thin-skinned about any tough coverage. He gets more-favorable-than-not coverage because many staffers are fearful of talking to reporters, even anonymously, and some reporters inevitably worry access or the chance of a presidential interview will decrease if they get in the face of this White House.” The operative word is fear.

It’s worth ending with this insight from VandeHei and Allen with which they do nothing: “Many reporters find Obama himself strangely fearful of talking with them and often aloof and cocky when he does.”

He is aloof and cocky because Obama knows that until the day his second term ends—and probably far beyond—he will be given the benefit of any and every doubt. Since his presidency is “historic,” mere criticism is tacky, even petty.  Praise and questions a high school reporter would be embarrassed to ask—that’ll do the trick.

Indeed as VandeHei and Allen observe, “The super-safe, softball interview is an Obama specialty. The kid glove interview of Obama and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by Steve Kroft of CBS’s ‘60 Minutes’ is simply the latest in a long line of these.” Kroft showed no signs of even a tinge of embarrassment.

But Obama is fearful because he knows how far out of the mainstream his views are—the media narrative to the contrary notwithstanding. What would happen to this house of cards if the “mainstream” media went after his record with the same intensity (not to mention vitriol) it went after his predecessor?

Better to say nothing—or next to nothing—and crank out faux news.