From nearly the dawn of the Obama administration, journalists have criticized this president for being one of the most closed-off, private leaders this country has had in decades. This problem is only compounded by the fact that he promised early on that he would run a White House more open to the public than the last one. He would right all of Bush’s wrongs, throwing open the doors to criticism and debate.
Well, none of that has transpired. Instead, Obama has gone to painstaking lengths to hide from the press.
Associated Press Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee has had enough of the obstruction. Having grown tired of being turned away and intimidated, she outlined the eight ways the Obama administration is blocking information from the public.
Among other failures of transparency, she cites the lack of coverage coming out of the U.S. fight against ISIS in the Middle East. She accuses the administration of keeping the press out of meetings with foreign leaders abroad. She notes that doors are closed to the press in Guantanamo, shutting the American people out of the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-conspirators.
She says that “day-to-day intimidation of sources is chilling.”
This is the White House of transparency.
Buzbee certainly isn’t the first journalist to speak out against this president’s contentious relationship with the media. New York Times reporter James Risen made headlines earlier this year, calling Barack Obama the “greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation.”
In some ways, this is nothing new. Presidents have had trouble with the press as far back as the Kennedy administration (at least.) But journalists covering Washington have noted that Obama seems particularly keen on avoiding them whenever possible. Maybe it has something to do with the growth of right-wing media. Fox News, Breitbart, Drudge Report…these media outlets aren’t brand new out of the oven, but they have grown in both size and influence since Obama took office. Even liberal outlets like Politico aren’t shy about lambasting the president when his policies are too wonky to support.
But very few presidents have seen respected members of the (largely liberal) press call them out so viciously. Only a few weeks ago, Greta Van Susteren of Fox News told a story of administration intimidation that would be hard to believe were it not for the chorus of similar stories:
“It’s been more like pulling teeth to get answers from the Obama administration. The Obama administration’s behavior post Benghazi has been weird. Like they’re trying to hide something. I got a weird call from the Obama administration trying to pressure me to get [Fox news reporter] Jennifer Griffin to back down on her report. I thought the call from the Obama administration was dirty. Incidentally, I don’t control my colleagues and they don’t control me.”
Not only do stories like that increase the suspicion that something deceitful is going on behind the White House doors, they illustrate an attack on America’s freedom of the press. Of course, if there’s anything this president is good at, it’s trampling freedoms.