Barack Obama surfed into the White House on a giant wave of favorable press coverage, due in large part to his personal charisma.
But Obama’s honeymoon with the press is over and relations between the White House and the press are chilly at best. Reporters say Obama is less accessible than Bill Clinton or even George W. Bush and anyone who dares write anything critical of Obama faces exile from West Wing sources.
Politico says gripes from the media are increasing and the Obama White House is controlling, vindictive and hypocritical when it comes to living up to its pledge to be more open with both the press and the public.
Reporters say a routine press question can unleash a “string of vitriolic emails” while a negative story draws “a profane high-decibel phone call — or worse.”
Even Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is distant from the press.
“It’s an odd White House where it’s easier to get the White House chief of staff on the phone than the White House press secretary,” one reporter told Politico.
Despite his promises to be more open, Obama hasn’t held a press conference in 10 months. His comments about the press are often sarcastic and critical.
The press corps is equally sarcastic and critical. At a recent press briefing, Gibbs said “this is the most transparent administration in the history of our country.”
Loud, raucous laughter broke out among the reporters, along with some jeers.
A growing number of reporters consider the Obama White House childish when it comes to reacting to negative stories or probing questions from reporters. Some refer to Gibbs’ press briefings as “amatuer hour.”
Many reporters feel they were had by Obama and fell for his charm while failing to take a harder look at his inexperience. Instead of transparency, the Obama White House has become more standoffish than Bush’s and more secretive than any President in modern history.
Bill Clinton held 252 informal Q&A sessions with reporters during his first year in office. George W. Bush managed 147. Obama? Just 46.
One media outlet that’s not complaining is The New York Times. Other reporters complain that the Times is Obama’s favorite son and gets most of the leaks and scoops handed to them. On the other side, the White House has frozen out access to the Wall Street Journal since it was acquired by right-wing media magnate Rupert Murdoch.
Obama’s double standard shouldn’t surprise anyone. The President has long been more style than substance and his growing list of broken promises is politics as usual in Washington.
He came into office on a promise of change and the only promise he has delivered is proof of the old adage that the more things change the more they remain the same.