Speaking at a White House Correspondents’ Association seminar this weekend, USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page took precise aim at the Obama administration. Not bothering to mince words, Page said that our current White House was “more dangerous” to the press than any other administration in history. Coming off the Bush administration, which encountered much of the same criticism, the accusations show just how closed-off and secretive the Obama White House really is.
The seminar was convened to provide members of the press with an opportunity to strategize ways to put some transparency back into the executive branch. It also gave reporters a chance to vent their frustrations with the administration. In doing so, they railed against the “deep background” briefings that have become the norm – rooms filled with more than 40 reporters, all expected to adhere to rules that say no officials will be named and no quotes will be published.
Among the standout comments was a story from ABC’s Jonathan Karl, who recounted his investigation into the Boston Marathon bombings. Karl said that he couldn’t get any information out of the White House, despite repeated attempts. Finally, taking the story into his own hands, he found out that the FBI was sending their top interrogation experts to Boston. Karl lamented, “No way I would have gotten that out of the White House.”
A Free Press Protects Liberty
Perhaps more than any other constitutional issue, liberals have made the First Amendment one of their core values. If ever asked to say something positive about them, that’s my typical go-to issue. They’ve always expressed a willingness to fight for free speech and a free press. What does it say, then, that the top elected liberal in the country is this terrified of a largely liberal press?
John Adams once wrote, “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right and a desire to know.”
If what Adams said is true, then we must acknowledge that there is more at stake here than the NY Times front page. Liberty itself is being threatened by Obama’s attitude toward the press.
The bigwigs who gathered at the seminar aren’t off the hook, either. For too many years, the liberal media has conspired to give the American people a tainted product, excusing Democrats for the same things they excoriate Republicans for doing. If they find themselves locked out of the Obama White House, perhaps it’s because the president couldn’t believe that they would bother to investigate. Given what he’d seen for the last eight years, you could excuse him that misconception.
Is there a place for secrecy in the federal government? Of course. No one’s suggesting that Obama tell us every plan he has for attacking ISIS, for instance. No one wants important state secrets printed in the newspaper. But Obama doesn’t just hide the espionage and the battle plans. He hides everything from the details of Benghazi to documents relating to the Fast and Furious scandal to the circumstances of his own birth.
The 2016 elections won’t be decided by the issue of White House transparency, but conservatives should demand at least that out of whoever the GOP decides to run. Liberty hangs in the balance.