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WorldWatch
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
By Orson Scott Card January 25, 2009

Putting the Press in Their Place

I don't know about you, but I thought it was a delicious moment when President Obama made his condescending handshaking visit to the press room and got testy when the reporters insisted on asking him questions.

"If you keep asking questions I won't be able to do this any more," he says, sternly, like a father saying, "Do I have to turn this car around?" He was so arrogant that I laughed out loud.

And also unbelievably dumb about the press. This guy, who got the gentlest treatment by the press in any political campaign ever (while they made grossly unfair attacks on Palin), clearly despises them as a nuisance.

What does he think, that these people are like Obama's other worshipers, just because their coverage of his campaign and then his anointing -- er, coronation -- no, make that "inauguration" -- was so fawning?

They don't want to shake your darling hand, Mr. President, they want to get answers to questions, especially to very hard and tricky questions, so that they can further their careers and make a cool impression on their colleagues and competitors.

Franklin Roosevelt knew this, and cultivated the press. So did Kennedy. You do this by bringing them in and having conversations with them in small groups, off the record but with enough "unattributed" stories and quotes ("a senior administration official says ...") that they are in your debt.

Inside news is the coin you spend to buy their loyalty. But Mr. Obama has never had to do this because they bestowed their support on him unearned during the campaign.

He doesn't understand that now that George W. Bush is gone, whom the press despised because he was an actual man of the people (and the press tries hard to pretend they are of the upper class, socially and intellectually), the press has to continue advancing their careers.

If they can't do it by sucking up to you (i.e., getting exclusives from you now and then), they'll do it by sticking it to you. Their career advances just fine no matter which tack they take.

They've already achieved their goal -- to elect the first black president. Now they have to make a living for the next four years, and you, Mr. President, have just announced to them that you intend to keep them in the playpen with the other children.

This is so not going to work. Unless, of course, you have a plan to circumvent the power of the press.

And who knows? Maybe the fact that the press threw away their souls and their integrity during the Bush administration means that they have nothing left -- no personal, inner resources that will allow them to stand up to a president who despises them.


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