While, given the opportunity presented by the latest White House outreach gimmick, I asked a number of questions of the president…
$900 million in aid to Hamas in Gaza to recover from Israel defending itself against attack, but 1/2 that 2 Haiti post-quake. Why? #AskObama
Why did you let Iranian opposition protesters flounder in the street? #AskObama
Where is your Constitutional authority for implementing aspects of DREAM/Cap&Trade thru extralegislative means, i.e. ICE & EPA? #AskObama
So … what, uh, happened to revenue numbers after the Bush tax cuts? #AskObama #RemindMe
GWB brought down gas prices in July 2008 by repealing his father’s ban on offshore drilling. What’s your plan for the long-term? #AskObama
By “necessarily skyrocket,” did you mean my monthly gas and food bills? #AskObama #ItsAllInterconnected
Still wanna shut down Guantanamo Bay facility? What’s the recidivism rate among released detainees, anyway? #AskObama
How can you chide Republicans for purported delay on the debt ceiling while the Dems failed to pass a budget for 750+ days? #AskObama
Why not take an all-of-the-above approach 2 energy, create jobs, enhance security, & start being the dealer instead of the junkie? #AskObama
I think you’re wrong a whole lot more than you’re right. Does that make me a racist? #AskObama
I believe that, on any issue, the 1st question any rep/senator should ask needs 2B about the proper role of gov’t. Am I a racist? #AskObama
I have attended several Tea Party rallies and spoken at a few. Does that make me a racist? #AskObama
I maintain a fairly popular (it used to be more so when I had time for it) conservative blog. Does that make me a racist? #AskObama
… I am fairly certain that none of them were answered.
And, while the Obama White House worked hard yesterday at its Twitter Town Hall event to give the impression that they were engaging the army of supportive and not-so-supportive “citizen journalists” in the new media, I think it’s important to understand the manner in which the administration is engaging traditional journalists — you know, the ones who get paid to put on pants and cover the White House every day.
Over at The Daily Caller, Rob Bluey has a piece about exactly how the White House is using old media and new media alike to “bully” critics of the administration. First, Bluey points out how the White House has used Twitter–by far my favorite new media platform–to engage Kevin Eder (follow @keder on Twitter!) a blogger type like myself.
Jesse Lee’s duties at the White House include “online response” — and there has been no shortage of responses to one person who routinely communicates with him on Twitter.
Of the 267 tweets written by Lee in just over a month, a stunning 40 of them have been directed at Kevin Eder, a prolific Twitter user with more than 83,000 tweets to his credit. That means 15 percent of Lee’s tweets — from an official White House account no less — have been with Eder.
Lee’s obsession has impressed Eder, even if he’s a bit baffled by the White House’s decision to engage with him so aggressively.
“I like going back and forth with him,” Eder said of Lee. “But if you engage your fiercest critics on new media, you’re doing two things: On the one hand, you’re showing that you take their opinion seriously. That’s good for the non-influencer public to watch what’s happening. But on the other hand, the White House is legitimizing me. And quite literally, I’m a nobody.”
Lee, who is paid $72,500, didn’t respond to a phone call, email message or tweet to talk about his job and this new direction for the White House. Prior to his appointment in May, the White House didn’t have such a position. Neither did any previous administration for that matter.
Contrast the level of interaction between Jesse Lee and Kevin Eder with the propensity for stonewalling true print journalists. As pointed out in the Daily Caller piece:
Over the past three months, there has been a high-profile incident involving the White House and journalists on at least three occasions.
- In April, White House officials threatened to exclude The San Francisco Chronicle from press pool coverage of events in the Bay Area after the paper’s senior political reporter, Carla Marinucci, allegedly violated White House rules at an event with Obama. Marinucci filmed protesters heckling Obama, prompting the White House complaint.
- In May, the White House denied The Boston Herald full access to an Obama event in Boston because it had previously run a front-page op-ed by former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA). “I think that raises a fair question about whether the paper is unbiased in its coverage of the President’s visits,” said White House spokesman Matt Lehrich.
- And just last week, White House press secretary Jay Carney called MSNBC to complain about Time senior political analyst Mark Halperin’s unsavory description of Obama. The network swiftly suspended Halperin indefinitely.
Politically, I don’t see this ending well for the president. Even the most biased journalists value their names, sources and reputations more than their political ideology; shutting out and bullying traditional, normally friendly newspapers while simultaneously bolstering the credibility of folks like Kevin Eder or myself — that’s a public relations disaster waiting to happen.
Chewing out and blocking out reporters for networks and newspapers across the country could very well lead to disenfranchisement among a tight-knit segment of the population that had been one hundred percent in the proverbial bag for President Obama in 2008. Yet legitimizing regular, ordinary folks like Kevin Eder is also risky, as in doing so the White House essentially sends out a written invitation for scrutiny to an enormous group of people who, together, have the time and wherewithal to root through thousands of pieces of legislation and truly hold the federal government to task.
To win in 2012, President Obama needs two things: (1) a complacent and sycophantic mainstream media prepared to make the same commitment to his campaign as was done in 2008, and (2) a moderate, terrible nominee from the GOP who will be equal parts media punching bag and conservative voter disenfranchiser. Without both of those, Obama will very likely lose in this political climate dominated by the resurgent right.