FOX News, The New York Times, The Associated Press, CBS News, CNN and The Huffington Post all have told Attorney General Eric Holder he can forget about trying to control a dialogue between government and the press, citing an obvious principle that the U.S. Department of Justice has continued to ignore: the media’s power to go about its job without first agreeing to silent and hidden ground rules with that very government on which it purports, at least in theory, to shine a light.
Holder’s farcical proposition — which essentially asks mainstream media outlets with bureaus in Washington, D.C., to join him in off-record discussions over how he can go about investigating himself in the wake of illegal media snooping scandals involving FOX News and The AP — has rightly hit a sour note with nearly all takers. The talks, which will still go on with the few news outfits (ABC, POLITICO) who’ve said “yes,” are set to take place Thursday and Friday.
“We will not be attending the session at DOJ,” The New York Times said flatly. “It isn’t appropriate for us to attend an off the record meeting with the attorney general. Our Washington bureau is aggressively covering the department’s handling of leak investigations at this time.”
FOX News began its own story on the absurd closed-door talks Thursday by simply stating, “Michael Clemente, Fox News‘ executive vice president, decided that Fox News will not attend the off-record talks.”
The Huffington Post also offered a terse rejoinder as part of a larger story: “The Huffington Post’s Washington bureau chief, Ryan Grim, also said the news site would decline an off-the-record meeting.”
And so on with CNN, CBS News and all the rest. It was a nice “I’m Spartacus” moment of open revolt for a mostly liberal press whose influence over Americans’ political opinions continues to decline.
There’s a facile irony to the mainstream media’s newfound indignance over the Barack Obama Administration’s ongoing condescension. It’s not the condescension that’s new; indeed, no President has enjoyed such a malleable and feeble press presence at White House briefings as have Obama and his simpering, petulant press secretary, Jay Carney. And on those pre-scandal occasions when the mainstream press had broken out of its Stockholm-syndrome thrall long enough to complain, it focused on ridiculous tabloid slights like Obama’s media-shunning golf outing with Tiger Woods.
Now that they’ve no choice but to be outraged and now that they’ve been directly targeted by a Presidential Administration that grew a little too comfortable with its clockwork ability to shepherd the White House press corps, the MSM has found religion.
Better late than never. Something still smells about the way the Obama Administration is trying to countenance these scandals — by doggedly attempting to set the terms of how they’ll be talked about, reported on and investigated — and at least a few in the press are starting to wise up in ways that regular Americans can begin to appreciate.
“Obama’s team still doesn’t get it,” wrote National Journal’s Ron Fournier Thursday. “One wonders why the media would trust Holder’s motive given how the administration has conducted itself so far. The most recent case in point: When The New York Times and AP announced that they would not meet with Holder ‘off the record,’ Democratic Party spokesman Brad Woodhouse tweeted that the decision ‘kind of forfeits your right to gripe.’ Well, no — it doesn’t. Woodhouse was treating the media like a political opponent: Attack, distort, and deflect. He probably didn’t realize the Orwellian implications of his wisecrack. Even the liberal ACLU took issue with it…
“…Small things matter in the big picture. Obama might want to ask Holder to explain himself at a town-hall meeting. Not with bureau chiefs, but to the public at large. On the damn record.”