President Obama held his final press briefing with reporters on Wednesday. He offered a frank and positive assessment of his eight years dealing with the White House press corps. Yahoo News offered this review of what the president said.
And he delivered a strong defense of the news media, which Trump has repeatedly denounced as dishonest, corrupt and even “scum.”
“America needs you and our democracy needs you,” Obama said. “My hope is that you will continue with the same tenacity that you showed us, to do the hard work of getting to the bottom of stories and getting them right and to push those of us in power to be the best version of ourselves and to push this country to be the best version of itself.”
Obama’s relationship with the news media has been complex, and sometimes deeply adversarial. He has pursued more leak prosecutions than all of his predecessors combined. His Justice Department spied extensively on reporter James Rosen of Fox News, an outlet that the White House at one point declared was not a legitimate news organization. He has overseen the construction of a highly sophisticated digital communications operation that, like a virtual state-run news organization, competes with traditional media. Members of the media have butted heads with the White House over the practice of excluding reporters and photographers from events that were then “covered” by official photographers or video makers.
“I have enjoyed working with all of you. That does not, of course, mean that I’ve enjoyed every story that you have filed,” Obama said. “But that’s the point of this relationship: You’re not supposed to be sycophants, you’re supposed to be skeptics, you’re supposed to ask me tough questions.”
Suffice to say that the man who becomes president on Friday doesn’t approve of the idea of journalists as “skeptics” who are “supposed to ask” tough questions. Donald Trump regularly has shown contempt for multiple news organizations, calling them “fake news” outlets and using Twitter to advance his notion that almost all of them are out to get him.
The National Review jumped right on board in supporting Trump a few days ago. Conrad Black’s essay suggested that the media have walked lockstep with a host of other institutions in moving America away from the righteous strength of the Reagan era into something, well, wimpy. And Trump might be the man to, yes, make this country great again:
The real message is that they all failed: both parties, the Bushes, Clintons, and Obamas, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, McCain, and Romney. Ronald Reagan left the country the world’s only superpower, prosperous, united, and content, set at the head of a respectful and grateful alliance. Then, as happens in the lives of great nations and empires, unchallenged by obvious threats, decay advances quickly on hairy, scurrying feet. The mountebanks of the global-warming fraud assaulted energy production and capitalism generally. These were not legitimate conservationists and vigilant environmentalists; they were frauds, demanding, for pseudoscientific reasons, the elimination of carbon use. The political landscape was also swarmed by the dopey-dreamy believers in the borderless state; the rich lefties, from the cleverest — Warren Buffett, padding around in corduroy trousers and a Viyella shirt asking that his taxes be raised while opening his pockets to receive the largesse of the Obama regime — to the dumbest, the physically well-favored Hollywood airheads and cokeheads calling for social justice while neglecting to pay the minimum wage to migrant aliens rolling their tennis courts and mowing their lawns. They became the iron-clad, locked-arm conventional wisdom.
Whew. Americans really goofed over the past 30 years. We apparently elected dolt after dolt, espoused idiotic idea after idiotic idea, wantonly trampled on Reagan’s legacy (which is not as glorious as Black would like you to believe) and provided opportunities and benefits for millions of people who shouldn’t have had them.
What nincompoops we were.
Okay, returning to Trump and the media…
Anticipating that their relationship with Trump will be rocky, multiple news agencies and journalists endorsed an open letter to the president-elect. The Columbia Journalism Review posted the letter on its website.
Among the highlights:
It will come as no surprise to you that we see the relationship as strained. Reports over the last few days that your press secretary is considering pulling news media offices out of the White House are the latest in a pattern of behavior that has persisted throughout the campaign: You’ve banned news organizations from covering you. …
But while you have every right to decide your ground rules for engaging with the press, we have some, too. It is, after all, our airtime and column inches that you are seeking to influence. We, not you, decide how best to serve our readers, listeners, and viewers.
But those words will mean nothing if the White House press corps and the leading journalism organizations pull back after the first call that they are being biased. (And that call should come before 1:00 p.m. EST on Friday, or less than one hour after Trump is sworn in as America’s 45th president.)
This is no game. This is no fictional television program. This is a president-elect who has rarely been held accountable for his actions assuming the most high-profile political position in this country.
He cannot drive the media away. Unless they allow him to do it.