A Sycophantic Press Has Itself to Blame for Obama’s AP Scandal

22 May 2013

The Obama/Holder AP scandal has produced strange bedfellows.  The DoJ’s seizing of Associated Press reporters’ phone records along with AG Eric Holder’s attempts to prosecute senior FOX correspondent, James Rosen as a “co-conspirator” for doing his job has sent a chill down the collective spines of both the liberal and conservative press.   At long last, the left and the right agree on something.

Karen Tumulty of WaPo tweeted: “The alternative to “conspiring” with leakers to get information:  Just writ[e] what the government tells you,” while The Guardian UK’s Glenn Greenwald, a constitutional lawyer, did a superb job of explaining the consequences of this administration’s overreach:

“That… is precisely the point of the unprecedented Obama war on whistle-blowers and press freedoms: to ensure that the only information the public can get is information that the Obama administration wants it to have. That’s why Obama’s one-side games with secrecy – we’ll prolifically leak when it glorifies the president and severely punish all other kinds – is designed to construct the classic propaganda model. And it’s good to see journalists finally speaking out in genuine outrage and concern about all of this.”

The media’s “genuine outrage” is too little too late.

They say “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” How about a pundit scorned?  Even WaPo’s Eugene Robinson, long a fan and defender of the President, today penned a screed informing the Obama Administration that “journalism is not espionage.”  But while Mr. Greenwald has been consistent in his coverage, long noting Obama’s inconsistencies and broken promises, the same cannot be said for most of big media.  They behaved as sycophants who abetted the President in the belief that he could move mountains on the force of his own personality, providing valuable ground cover for his missteps and self-described “boneheaded” actions even before he ascended past the Senate.

An enabling, excusing media is the true source of the problem here.  They say you will never know what your principles are until they become inconvenient to you.  We count on the press to hold our leaders in check.  When reporters trade objectivity for access, thereby abdicating that responsibility, they cannot then complain their jobs have been taken from them.

Like Greenwald, and unlike many of her media brethren, Kirsten Powers has consistently displayed the courage to depart from this herd mentality, offering a piece in The Daily Beast, How Hope and Change Gave Way to Spying on the Press, calling the Obama Administration out for their campaign to target and delegitimize FOX News since 2009:

“Yet only one mainstream media reporter—Jake Tapper, then of ABC News—ever raised a serious objection to the White House’s egregious and chilling behavior. Tapper asked future MSNBC commentator and then White House press secretary Robert Gibbs: “[W]hy is [it] appropriate for the White House to say” that “thousands of individuals who work for a media organization, do not work for a ‘news organization’?” The spokesman for the president of the United States was unrepentant, saying: “That’s our opinion.””

“Trashing reporters comes easy in Obama-land. Behind the scenes, Obama-centric Democratic operatives brand any reporter who questions the administration as a closet conservative, because what other explanation could there be for a reporter critically reporting on the government?”

She notes that much of the media could have cared less when FOX was the target, nor did they care when whistleblowers or the maker of an anti-Muslim video were targeted – but now that they are on the receiving end of what looks to be a campaign of intimidation, they feel both betrayed and enraged.

Yet, the “correspondents” addicted to hobnobbing with Mr. Obama and his visiting celebrities seem too dense to realize that they were long ago reduced to nothing more than figurative notches on the Presidential bedpost.

This brings me to my only point of disagreement with Ms. Powers.  She states that the start of this debacle was in 2009, but the nascence of all of this was 2007-2008, when President Obama was first a candidate for the Presidency.  When you offer magazine covers and headlines depicting a man with only two years tenure in the Senate as JFK, FDR and Lincoln rolled into one, not only is he bound to believe his own press, he will get the idea that he can go unchecked and get away with anything.  And he did.  Often, on the campaign trail, then-Senator Obama would offer up contradictory talking points to different audiences and was called on none of it.  Where did journalists think this would lead?  They did even more damage by cowing those who dared to disagree with implications of racism.

The current frustration and sputtering of MSNBC’s Chris “tingle up my leg” Matthews or WSJ’s Peggy Noonan is comical given their previous swooning.  Several years ago, Mr. Greenwald wrote in Salon.com that President Obama had “ruined the Democratic brand” by getting his supporters to acquiesce to the enactment of policies that they would have excoriated President Bush for even suggesting.  Interesting that Greenwald no longer writes for Salon.  Perhaps he got a bit too critical…

Press sycophants have made the work of legitimate reporters that much more difficult.  Surely the responsibility for the government’s inappropriate invasions of privacy lies with the culprits, but such overreach can only come from power unchecked.  When you have 80% of the media covering for you day in and year out, what can you expect?  Enabling behavior is destructive and can only create a Frankenstein exploding past all control.

Investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News has previously gotten blowback from her own network for her relentless digging on Fast and Furious, Benghazi and this administration’s green energy spending.  She just revealed that she too has had her computer hacked.  She was cautious in her comments, only stating that the investigation into the extent of the invasion of her privacy and work product was still ongoing.  But given her determination, it’s not surprising that she might likewise be a target here.

Ironic that the Associated Press now expresses outrage and indignation for having its reporters’ phone records seized last year, since they were also helpmates to Obama in 2008, going so far as to report a false story that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, had conceded the Presidential primary race when, in fact, two states were just headed to the polls that particular morning.

Jake Tapper of CNN, one of our more respected reporters, later made the tepid admission that the press’ “tilted on the scales a little bit” back then.  And despite the momentary ruffling of feathers, I have no doubt they will continue to do so.

The double-coated Teflon reporters have long granted our President have to some degree, inured him from criticism.  Had they held Mr. Obama to tougher standards from the beginning, daring to ask more than softball questions when he was first a candidate, or, for example, not burying pertinent adverse side effects of the Affordable Care Act on “page 18, below the fold,” perhaps we would not see the behavior of such a brazen administration today.

Reacting to the “Scandal-palooza” of Benghazi, AP and the IRS’ unjust targeting of Tea Party groups, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, recently advised that this is A Time for Humility:

“Whether out of hubris or naïveté, the president and his men disregard the indisputable unpopularity of the healthcare reform law, disapproval of the administration stimulus program and widespread disappointment in the economic recovery. They have failed to run an effective government and are accountable for all three crises upon us whether they realize it or not. The semantics gymnastics coming from the White House press secretary and spokesmen are not only insulting, but callous. Obama’s passive and irritable responses — in light of the many violations these three incidences reveal — are so inappropriate they are practically Putin-esque. The administration must own up to this soon, lest a majority of Americans decide that not only are we not safe, but we are not free.”

Thus far, the President and his Senior Staff seem incapable of taking such advice.

The Obama Administration is not the first to have an “enemies list,” nor would it be the first time the press has bowed to the Executive Branch in power.  However, we seem to have jumped a very large shark and cynicism grows that anything will change.  We daily witness a circular firing squad where the weapons are fingers pointing at the other guy or gal.  “I don’t know” is the answer of the day.  You know you’re in a bit of hot water when you’ve lost Jon Stewart, who yesterday offered the headline:  “Barackolypse Now.”  Per Democratic Strategist Hank Scheinkopf, “This is a damning pattern that talks about a lack of respect for our basic institutions.”

A bit of humility and a lot of honesty are in order.  I fear without an overwhelming bipartisan grassroots cry for the same, we will never get it.


Anita Finlay is the author of Dirty Words on Clean Skin, a shocking exposé of sexism and media bias, now available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon.  #1 on Women in Politics books for 16 weeks.

Like Anita Finlay, Author on Facebook.
Follow @AnitaFinlay on Twitter.




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