Friday, January 23, 2009


The White House press corps is on Obama's case already, as they weren't offered full video coverage of the President's do-over swear-in inside the Oval Office:

“It is ironic, the same day that the president is talking about transparency, we were not let in,” CNN’s Ed Henry said on the air Wednesday night after news of the second swearing-in broke.

Substitute "unrelated" for "ironic," and you have a true and accurate statement.
Now this isn't the case we see five times a day, where "ironic" isn't the right word, because the speaker doesn't know what "ironic" means. This is a case where "ironic" isn't the right word, because the speaker doesn't know what "transparency" means.

By invoking the word "transparency," President Obama means to differentiate himself from the Bush Administration's policies and practice of secret government and information warfare. Transparency in government is a social value — a democratic value — and the role of the press in ensuring it is critical. So yes, Mr. Henry, you're really important. You have a privileged status in American society.

But transparency wasn't at issue here, because the White House did invite a number of print reporters into the Oval Office to view and document the event. Let's be clear: nothing about the re-swear-in was kept from the public. It's just that Ed Henry and his counterparts in cable news didn't get the video footage they wanted. Boo hoo.

This is not to say that, to date, Obama and his people have always been open and forthright with the press and the American people. They might have front-loaded the information about Tim Geithner's tax liabilities; instead, they waited for the news media to dig it up. This would describe a failure to live up to the "transparency" value: We know something that might be material and you don't. But we're not going to tell you.

It says something about the state of the profession that "we wanted to get footage of that" is greater cause for complaint from the media than "you withheld that information from us." I'm fine with the media zealously defending the principle of press access: I'd just like the underlying rationale to be service of the people, and not simply an assertion of Big Media privilege.

1 comment:

Mithridates said...

You saw right through the guy.

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