Dan K. Thomasson: There is a striking resemblance to covering the White House and nourishing an infant.
There is a striking resemblance to covering the White House and nourishing an infant. You know the kind of activity parents engage in when they feed the baby by pretending the spoon full of apple sauce is a loaded airplane or helicopter and the mouth is a hanger. This is accompanied by aeronautical noises aimed at diverting the kid's attention from the true objective.
This happens in most administrations but the current one is more adept at it than usual, particularly since the spoon is often empty of any sustenance for a thinning cadre of correspondents hungry for excitement and eager to convince the world and themselves that what they are doing is not only a glamorous journalistic assignment but enormously important.
President Obama and his minions, on the other hand, seem to have decided that long held traditions of a ubiquitous free press geared to reporting everything big or small in his day is actually a detriment to his goals. He has even on at least one occasion shaken the press pool to its foundation by hustling secretly off without reportorial accompaniment, utterly ignoring the possibility that something might happen to him without the knowledge of his subjects, the American people.
Meanwhile, his seemingly part-time press secretary, raised on the pap of Capitol Hill and completely lacking in enthusiasm not to mention charisma, treats the care and feeding of the press with bored disdain according to most assessments, preferring apparently to provide the president with his wise assistance in other matters and hoping some day to take over the job of chief political adviser from David Axelrod, who plans to head off before too long to help his messiah win reelection.
Probably the most disillusioning and in some ways embarrassing performance in a nation where a free and open press is a symbol of everything else we stand for came during the recent Nuclear Security Summit attended by the heads of 46 countries. Also on hand was a glorious gathering of the world's press eager to be in a country where openness and journalistic acceptance are celebrated. Well, at least that's what they thought.
But that was before they were locked out of nearly everything being debated by their own presidents and foreign ministers in the two days of meetings. According to reports, the "summit" was so tightly managed that reporters were given access that lasted literally less than 60 seconds. Nearly all the agenda of individual meetings carried a "no press" notice, presumably that was accompanied by a similar ban on dogs, sailors and what have you. This of course is at the behest of a president who soon will attend the White House Correspondents Association dinner where there are more Hollywood stars present than working journalists and whose organization has been reduced to listening to Obama filibuster his own press conferences with long answers to planted questions from those picked to be called upon ahead of time.
A wise mentor once said that no one wants to hear reporters whine about how they have been mistreated. On the other hand, it is difficult to take lightly the disregard for the press held by a Chicago organizer who made it all the way to the White House in record time largely from publicity and enormously favorable treatment from the very journalists he now appears to eschew.
There is something much bigger at stake here. If Obama has decided that he now doesn't need anyone looking over his shoulder, it is a sad day for all of us, and that contention needs no further explanation. Americans who are satisfied with only what he wants to tell them without question deserve what they get.
So the always overrated job of covering the White House has become even more so. It is about as glamorous as cleaning stalls with the product of the labor about the same. The president joked recently about the press being angry with him after he sneaked out to go to his daughter's soccer game. There really was nothing funny about it.
E-mail Dan K. Thomasson, former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service, at firstname.lastname@example.org.