A month ago, I noted a comment by Chicago Sun-Times writer Carol Marin who was mildly complaining that President Obama never goes before the press without having a list of pre-approved journalists upon whom he'll call during a press conference. She offhandedly quipped that in the press corps, "most of us don't even bother raising our hands any more to ask questions because Obama always has before him a list of correspondents who've been advised they will be called upon that day."
I wondered last month how long it would take for anyone else in the press corps to notice Obama's tendency to hand pick from among the free press who he will deign to allow to ask a question? I also wondered if this same "free press" would have meekly allowed president Bush get away with treating the press in such a way? Or would they have raised a hue and cry that would have deafened the world? Drudge. at least, noticed then because within a day my post had wracked up over 200,000 views. But, until February 11, no one in the press has seemed too interested in discussing this issue.
Well, the Wall Street Journal has now joined me and Carol Marin in wondering what is up with this practice? In an unsigned posting headlined "Obama's Press List," the WSJ raises its collective eyebrow asking the very same questions I asked a month ago about President Obama's special reporter list.
...The White House had decided in advance who would be allowed to question the President and who was left out.
Presidents are free to conduct press conferences however they like, but the decision to preselect questioners is an odd one, especially for a White House famously pledged to openness. We doubt that President Bush, who was notorious for being parsimonious with follow-ups, would have gotten away with prescreening his interlocutors. Mr. Obama can more than handle his own, so our guess is that this is an attempt to discipline reporters who aren't White House favorites.
It's a curious thing, isn't it? Is Obama afraid to take off the cuff questions? Or is this, as the Journal posits, an effort to rein in the press to a controlled place that makes the President comfortable?
And what does it say about a press corps that has allowed this to slide by now for so long without raising but these few whimpers?
The Journal ended with an ominous question:
Few accounts of Monday night's event even mentioned the curious fact that the White House had picked its speakers in advance. We hope that omission wasn't out of fear of being left off the list the next time.
I might tend to imagine this acquiescence by the press to being "handled" by Obama is less a fear of being chastised by the president later and far more an act of cowering before their beloved president. They have accepted the status of lapdog and they like it.
However, this makes the second media outlet to formally notice and mildly complain about Obama's secret press list. Let's hope the press regains its manhood and begins to take exception to The One's exclusionary practices.
(Photo credit: John Shinkle/Politico)