From a Washington Post readers chat this morning with the Post’s National Political Correspondent, Anne E. Kornblut.
SW Nebraska: Will any future president be able to do the job on the press, Congress and the public that George Bush has been able to do? What about the politicization of the Justice Department, science, etc? It seems that McClellan has taken the press to task in his book. Will the press be so cooperative with a President again or has the media been reminded that they actually have an important, difficult job to do?
Anne E. Kornblut: I haven’t read McClellan’s book yet, but really look forward to it, especially on the point you raise. My immediate reaction upon hearing he’d said that was, “Wait, what!? Isn’t it the job of those employed at the White House to be straightforward in the first place?” In my experience, reporters do know the importance of the job, and face many obstacles in trying to get information (especially from this administration). But I also do think all of our efforts have been redoubled over the last few years. I’m so proud of my colleagues at the Post who covered Walter Reed for that very reason.
Are these reactions from political reporters for real? Wait, wasn’t it [McClellan’s job] to be straightforward? And It would have been nice if Scott told us some of this back when it was his job to keep the public informed. Really? Is this “surprise” that McClellan didn’t speak his mind from the podium or wasn’t always straightforward (knowingly or otherwise) just a face-saver or is it real? What happened to If your mom says you she loves you, check it out and all that? Is there really confusion over whose “job” is — and there’s no denying it’s an incredibly difficult one— to try to “keep the public informed?”
Several questions later another Post reader takes the words out of my mouth:
You must be kidding!: Just a comment: You think it’s the job of people employed by the White House to be straightforward? Uh, no—it’s the job of the media to hold the government responsible. If the people in the White House were straightforward, Americans would not need the media to intercede as our surrogates in ensuring that truth is separated from B.S.
Anne E. Kornblut: I know, I know, a dream land — but I do actually know some rare public officials who are straightforward, and I would happily pursue another line of work if everyone else followed their examples. But I’m not really worried about unemployment (not for that reason, anyway).
Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.