The PJ Tatler

SF Chronicle Dubs Obama White House 'Nixonian'

Kick a newspaper’s reporter out of a fundraiser for no good reason, and earn a deservedly harsh editorial when the president comes back to town.

If anything, there is almost a Nixonian quality to the level of control, paranoia – and lack of credibility – this White House has demonstrated on the issue of media access to President Obama’s fundraisers.

Bay Area reporters will not be allowed inside the W Hotel today when the president meets with hundreds of contributors paying $7,500 or more to attend. Only Washington-based journalists were allowed in the pool – continuing a disturbing trend by this White House to severely limit access to fundraisers. Even former President George W. Bush, hardly a champion of transparency, allowed local reporters to cover his fundraising events.

Fundraisers are not private events in this post-Watergate era. Contributions are a matter of public record, and the public has a right to know what is being said to and by the president. Local journalists are better positioned than their Beltway brethren to recognize who is there – and why.

This White House has come to fear and loathe local reporters, ever since Dallas reporter Brad Watson queried the president about his rocky relationship with Texas. In that episode, note that the local reporter (Watson) asked some tough questions, tough enough to get a rise out of Obama, and then USA Today rode to the president’s aid and criticized Watson for doing his job. After that, the WH implied that reporters with enough gumption to ask tough questions of The One will get the freeze out. And back in May, the Obama White House went after a tiny local CA newspaper and got it to scrub a story about FLOTUS that was barely negative.

This president also has much to hide. I’m not talking about his birth certificate, but his association with figures like Bill Ayers, his connections to the socialist Midwest Academy, his role in an earlier #Occupy-style action and his possible influence on the current one, his grades, etc. Much of this is out there in Stanley Kurts’s great book Radical-in-Chief, but beltway reporters haven’t taken any interest in that book yet and they aren’t likely to. Perhaps some local reporter will, and spring a gotcha on The One. Can’t have that.

Most pols court local press because their sheer star power tends to create positive headlines seen by the local folks, and that adds to the Google search results — “The president visited X today to tout his jobs bill” or “Candidate X made a campaign stop in Denver today to address her economic plans” — that sort of thing. But the Obama White House seems to be more interested in message control, and herding the beltway reporters around can help maintain that control. And besides that, there’s always the personality of the president himself and its influence on how he is covered.