Today Paul Bedard’s Washington Whispers column in US News and World Report covers a panel discussion by veteran White House correspondents on the state of the White House press corps.
Several veteran and prize-winning journalists who covered presidents from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush say that the current crop of White House correspondents are too timid and deferential and have played a role in killing the impact of presidential news conferences.
“If you watch an Obama news conference, and watched a Bush news conference previous to that, where correspondents sit in their seats with their hands folded on their laps, [it’s] as if they are in the room with a monarch and they have to wait to be recognized by the president,” says Sid Davis, the former NBC Washington bureau chief who covered nine presidents.
This is baloney. Despite the kid glove treatment given the Obama Administration by the press, any comparison of today’s fairly active press corps with the corrupt and morally compromised White House press corps before the last years of the Johnson Administration is just fatuous.
The press conferences might have been more lively but that doesn’t mean they produced news. Before the great falling out between the press and the presidency over Vietnam the relationship was chummy. Reporters rode in FDR’s personal rail car. They played poker with Harry Truman. How did that benefit the country? It didn’t.
If one wants to talk about a supine White House press corps, the relationship with the Kennedy administration would serve as a textbook case study.
They knew about but didn’t divulge the veritable conveyor belt of women passing through the Kennedy White House. That some of those women had mob and foreign intelligence connections wasn’t deemed important. There was no real inquiry into the Cuban Missile Crisis or the Berlin Crisis. How many of these “veteran” correspondents wrote about the rather massive and blatant vote fraud in the 1960 presidential election? Which of them were not cheerleaders for Kennedy’s great Southeast Asian adventure? We now know that Kennedy’s health was crap but he was portrayed as being the picture of robust good health. Are we to believe the press corps didn’t know?
As we grow older our memory tends to smooth out the rough spots. We all walked five miles to school each day, barefoot, in the snow, uphill both ways. Today’s generation is crap. Thus it is, thus it ever was.
What is inexcusable is that these geezers were allowed to portray their very edited, if not downright falsified, view of events as “history.”