"Obama, Like All Presidents, Tries To Manage The News" [WARNING: HORRIFIC IMAGES]
Helen Thomas: "Obama, Like All Presidents, Tries To Manage The News" [WARNING: HORRIFIC IMAGES]
The only reporter to have interviewed all 44 US Presidents, HELEN THOMAS!!!
WASHINGTON -- Itís not news when the White House tries to manage the news. That has always been the case.
But it is news when Obama administration officials -- the folks who proclaimed that they would bring unprecedented openness and transparency to government -- fall all over themselves trying to manipulate news briefings and attempting amateurish stagecraft at public meetings.
The president relies on a list of handpicked reporters to call on at his formal news conferences -- and the fortunate few are not necessarily accredited reporters but include new age self-appointed journalists or anyone with a laptop.
The White House staff selects both the professionals and ringers for the call-on list. Some are alerted the night before the news conference that they will be called on. This leaves the impression that the White House is trying to influence the questions the president will be asked-- which may or may not be true.
At his most recent news conference, President Barack Obama recognized a blogger, who had been invited by the Obama staff to attend the briefing and then steered into asking a question about the Iranian election, a topic that Obama was eager to address. Iíve heard of planted questions, but this was a planted questioner, an odd addition to the medley of White House feints designed to manipulate the news.
With the White House pulling all the strings, reporters become their puppets. Those not called upon -- well, they are nothing but props or extras at the big show in the East Room of the White House.
The Obama administration, like many of its predecessors, also has adopted the so-called "town meeting" format to give the president a forum that allows him to market the party line without appearing to do so. Access is limited and questioners are carefully selected so that viewers and readers get the purest form of the presidentís message, whatever the topic may be.
Spin and propaganda do eventually become transparent, but sometimes the deception can lead to unjustified war -- as we have seen in the recent past. Itís as if the message managers become deceived by their own spin.
All of this is particularly unfortunate at a time when the nation needs a free and unfettered news media to scrutinize the new administration and its new policies.
The military keeps us safe but the press -- which informs the American people -- keeps us free.
The importance of a free press is best illustrated by its prominence on the to-do list of would-be dictators. The first move by coup supporters is to seize the news media, take over the local broadcast stations and censor the newspapers.
In the U.S. the term "managed news" was coined in the Kennedy era, giving a handy title to a practice that previous presidents had also attempted. Perhaps this practice reached its high water mark during the Ronald Reagan administration when the former Hollywood actor and Michael Deaver, his deputy chief of staff, collaborated to meticulously construct the presidentís image. It seemed that not a Reagan wave went unscripted.
Much as White Houses try to control the news, itís not that easy in a free society.
I think of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeldís attempt to set up a "disinformation" office at the Pentagon. When it was quickly exposed and dismantled, Rumsfeld indicated he would spread out the bogus news operations to other agencies of the military.
Itís a shame that the Obama administration has discarded his high-sounding rhetoric about transparency and openness. So far, it looks like change we canít believe in.