Abuse of Power and Press Intimidation At The White House

"Hey, Herald! Get with the program!"

In response to a complaint by the Boston Herald about the limited access its staff would have to President Obama during his visit to Boston,  Matt Lehrich, an Obama aide, attributed the treatment to the White House’s objections to a front page opinion article by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in which he attacked the administration’s job-creation record. “I think that raises a fair question about whether the paper is unbiased in its coverage of the president’s visits,”  Lehrich told the Herald in an email.

And maybe it does. Then again, there is a mountain of evidence that hundreds of media outlets, including four of the five major TV news organizations, the New York Times, The Washington Post, and many others, are also biased in their coverage of everything this president does–favorably. Apparently the White House, which has already disgraced itself by repeatedly attacking the one critical network by name for the state offense of not falling into line, can’t abide the fact that some print journalists are as prone to be critical of him as Chris Matthews is likely to get tingles up his leg every time Obama opens his mouth. Their response? Make it harder for the unfavorably biased journalists to cover the news.

Rewarding fawning, pro-administration reporters and papers is an annoying tradition in Washington but hard to condemn; it’s a bit much to expect politicians to like being covered by ideological foes. But punishing the nay-sayers is something else, and the something else is called “chilling freedom of the press.” The message Obama’s punishment of the Herald sends is this: “Print what we like ( or say…or tell you) and you’ll be rewarded. Don’t, and see what happens.” It’s not in the same category as throwing editors in prison, like our pals the Chinese. It isn’t consistent with American rights and values, either.

It is telling, is it not, that virtually no news organizations are defending the Herald or even reporting the story, except for Fox, of course. Are they cowed, biased, or both? I almost gave MSNBC  Angry Left sneerer Lawrence O’Donnell an Ethics Hero for criticizing the White House for punishing the Herald, but his tepid message was that the Obamaites should “grow up.” “Grow up?” How about, “Start respecting the freedom of the press,” or “Stop abusing your power”?

Maybe “grow up” is the best O’Donnell can muster at MSNBC because most of his fans don’t like freedom of the press either, at least when it is wielded by conservatives.  Many of the comments on this story in the Huffington Post should give pause to anyone who believes “It can’t happen here.”

Increasingly, it seems to me, a favored tactic of the stalwarts, in the media and out of it, of the Obama administration is to try to silence critics rather than rebut them. This takes many forms: intimidation by labeling all criticism as proof of racism; using distorted definitions of civility to induce self-censorship, as with the “No Labels” effort and the attacks on Sarah Palin in the aftermath of the Tucson shooting; denying appropriate news coverage to stories illustrating the Administration’s copious missteps and shortcomings; and even calls for regulatory censorship of talk radio and Fox News on the theory that they are harmful and dangerous. This trend is disturbing. For the President of the United States to preside over efforts at news media intimidation is more than disturbing; it is frightening.

But then, almost nobody is reporting it.

I wonder why.

4 thoughts on “Abuse of Power and Press Intimidation At The White House

  1. All this should come as no surprise to those who recall that, in his formative years, not only did Obama study assiduously Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”, but he taught them. These are the classic tactics described therein. As if anyone should need a reminder, Mr. Obama’s conduct comes perilously close to that of other despots (in their early years), although not yet fully developed as those of Josef Stalin, for example. It is still considered bad form to “liquidate” your naysayers in such a way that public objections will be raised. In this instance, more than mere “objection” is needed; “outrage” would be more appropriate. Then again, what else would you expect from a President who refuses to enforce laws passed by prior Acts of Congress, signed by prior Presidents?

    • Precisely, Peter. Alinsky was the first name that popped into my mind when reading Jack’s commentary. You isolate your target, then demonize it, then ridicule it. And behind it all is the thinly veiled threat of retribution. All the hallmarks of a tyranny in the making.

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