Bending the Third Rail
Because We Should, We Can, We Do
Monday, February 27, 2006
Froomkin's piece this morning is focused on Bush and the port deal. Specifically, he asks if Bush's lame-duck status is hurt or helped by the recent debate and negotiations. The many reports cited by Froomkin all have a cliff-hanger edge of "is the President in trouble or not?". Like good screenwriters, they have to keep the meme going to sell newspapers. As I've said, a deal will be reached, quietly, and that will be that. If this were a "normal" administration, it might actually be a tipping point. But with Rove, manipulation is ever present and looking like a whipped dog is only the prelude to a nasty bite.

Anyway, I ran across this quote from a NY Times articles are daily press briefings, and the stress it's created in the White House press corpse:
Katharine Q. Seelye , writing in the New York Times, blames the "theater of the absurd" that is the modern White House press briefing not on spokesman Scott McClellan's refusal to give a direct answer to even the simplest question -- but on the fact that the briefings are televised. And, oh yes, on the troubled, preening reporters who make up the White House press corps.

Seelye writes: "By its nature, the relationship between the White House and the press has historically held an inherent tension. And many say it has been eroding since the Vietnam War and Watergate, when reporters had reason to distrust everything the White House said and made a scandalous 'gate' out of every murky act.

"But today, those on both sides say, the relationship has deteriorated further, exacerbated by the live briefings."

There's a brief defense of the craft: " 'This is the punching-bag beat of American journalism,' said David E. Sanger, who has covered the Bush administration since its inception for The New York Times. 'And the White House itself has been skillful at diverting tough questions by changing the subject to its battles with the media.' "

And, astonishingly enough, Seelye puts forth a psychological explanation for all this.

"Renana Brooks, a clinical psychologist practicing in Washington who said she had counseled several White House correspondents, said the past few years had given rise to 'White House reporter syndrome,' in which competitive high achievers feel restricted and controlled and become emotionally isolated from others who are not steeped in the same experience.

"She said the syndrome was evident in the Cheney case, which she described as an inconsequential event that produced an outsize feeding frenzy. She said some reporters used the occasion to compensate for not having pressed harder before the Iraq war.

" 'It's like any post-traumatic stress,' she said, 'like when someone dies and you think you could have saved them.' "
I call it battered idiot syndrome.

Guilt? Damned straight.

These people are astonishing. They are stressed because the White House has been masterful as manipulating them? Did I miss the memo that says that reporters should expect the White House to take care of them? I thought it was the job of the White House press corpse to aggressively pursue the story and to recognize going in that the White House is not their friend?

The other implication is that the "feeding frenzy" with the Cheney shooting was inappropriate. Huh? The Vice President of the United States shoots a guy in the face nearly killing him and the press aggressively pursing the story is a feeding frenzy? What a bunch of bullshit. It's a "feeding frenzy" that prevents later guilt folks. The Cheney shooting was actually an example of the press corpse doing it's job. It's been so long since we've seen it, no one knows what good reporting/investigation looks like.

Message to reporters. It's very nice when everyone can have a cocktail and share some juicy inside gossip with friends, even adversaries. But that's not your job. Your job is to pursue the story and not trust anyone. Your job is to find the truth and publish it. Your job is to out-manipulate the manipulators and win the mind war that continually goes on between government and press. If you want to relax, do it with your family and peers rather than seeking approval and appreciation from those you upon whom you report.

Above all, if your stressed. Go to a therapy group and stop whining!!