Obama vs. the First Amendment, left-of-center edition

Remember the phrase “One is a fluke, two is a coincidence, three is a trend”?

Let us observe the Obama administration’s antipathy toward the First Amendment and the media, beginning with Bob Woodward of All the President’s Men, as reported by James Taranto:

The tiff began last Friday, when an op-ed piece Woodward wrote for last Sunday’s paper appeared on the Post’s website. Drawing on reporting from his most recent book, “The Price of Politics,” Woodward argued that President Obama’s efforts to blame the sequester on congressional Republicans constituted, as Woodward delicately put it, “partisan message management.” …

That did not go over well at a White House that is used to deferential, even admiring coverage from mainstream-media reporters, many of whom these days, in contrast with old-timers like Woodward, are brazen advocates of left-wing causes. (See ourMonday column for a detailed treatment of this problem at the Post.)

Press secretary Jay Carney tweeted that Woodward’s op-ed was “willfully wrong,”Politico reports. Obama aide David Plouffe, as Twitchy.com notes, got nastier, likening Woodward, who turns 70 later this month, to an athlete who is too old to perform well: “Watching Woodward last 2 days is like imagining my idol Mike Schmidt facing live pitching again. Perfection gained once is rarely repeated.”

The most hotly contested White House response came to Woodward in private. Its public revelation came in stages and occasioned a good deal of confusion and hostility. …

Woodward’s detractors now accuse him of having “lied” or “fabricated” the White House threat. That’s ridiculous. As Woodward tells the New York Times, “I never said it was a threat.” What he did say, as the video shows, is: “It’s Mickey Mouse.” He quoted the [Gene] Sperling email accurately. The lack of any factual dispute is sufficient to disprove the charge of lying or fabrication.

Woodward has reported on every presidential administration since Nixon. When he does his job, the administration in question doesn’t like it. That is as it should be.

But it’s not just Woodward. It’s also Lanny Davis, formerly of the Clinton administration …

Lanny Davis, who served under President Bill Clinton as special counsel to the White House, told Washington, D.C.’s WMAL this morning that the Obama White House had threatened theWashington Times over his column, warning that theTimes would suffer limited access to White House officials and might have its White House credentials revoked. Davis, a centrist Democrat, is sometimes critical of the Obama administration’s policies. …


Davis told WMAL that his editor, John Solomon, “received a phone call from a senior Obama White House official who didn’t like some of my columns, even though I’m a supporter of Obama. I couldn’t imagine why this call was made.”  Davis says the Obama aide told Solomon, “that if he continued to run my columns, he would lose, or his reporters would lose their White House credentials.”

Jonathan Alter, former editor of Newsweek …

There is a kind of a threatening tone that from time to time, not all the time, but comes out of these guys http://problems this White House, but that doesn’t excuse it. And, you know, they should not play that way, but they, they feel like they’re holding the cards in the relationship. They’ve got people’s access, you know, to hold over them. I remember one time I reported something during the http://problems and we were on the road, and we were actually in Berlin. It was on Obama’s http://break in 2008, and they didn’t like something that I had reported, and I was disinvited to a dinner that night that reporters were having with the candidate. I was told “Don’t come” you know, you know fairly abusive email.

Ron Fourier of the National Journal …

As editor-in-chief of National Journal, I received several e-mails and telephone calls from this White House official filled with vulgarity, abusive language, and virtually the same phrase that Woodward called a veiled threat. “You will regret staking out that claim,” The Washington Post reporter was told.

Once I moved back to daily reporting this year, the badgering intensified. I wrote Saturday night, asking the official to stop e-mailing me. The official wrote, challenging Woodward and my tweet. “Get off your high horse and assess the facts, Ron,” the official wrote.

I wrote back:

“I asked you to stop e-mailing me. All future e-mails from you will be on the record — publishable at my discretion and directly attributed to you. My cell-phone number is … . If you should decide you have anything constructive to share, you can try to reach me by phone. All of our conversations will also be on the record, publishable at my discretion and directly attributed to you.” I haven’t heard back from the official. It was a step not taken lightly because the note essentially ended our working relationship.

… and apparently the entire reporting staff of the San Francisco Chronicle:

In April of 2011 SF Chronicle staffer Carla Marinucci captured on videophone a group of protestors at an Obama event and posted it with her story.The next day Phil Bronstein, the Chronicle’s editor at large, exposed Marinucci was told by the White House that she would be barred from future Bay Area coverage of the president’s visits. The White House denied threatening the reporter which prompted this amazingly frank statement by Chronicle editor Ward Bushee.

“Sadly, we expected the White House to respond in this manner based on our experiences yesterday. It is not a truthful response. It follows a day of off-the-record exchanges with key people in the White House communications office who told us they would remove our reporter, then threatened retaliation to Chronicle and Hearst reporters if we reported on the ban, and then recanted to say our reporter might not be removed after all.”

Wait! There’s more! From the New York Post:

“The whole Woodward thing doesn’t surprise me at all,” says David Brody, chief political correspondent for CBN News. “I can tell you categorically that there’s always been, right from the get-go of this administration, an overzealous sensitivity to any push-back from any media outlet.” …

“I had a young reporter asking tough, important questions of an Obama Cabinet secretary,” says one DC veteran. “She was doing her job, and they were trying to bully her. In an e-mail, they called her the vilest names — bitch, c–t, a–hole.” He complained and was told the matter would be investigated: “They were hemming and hawing, saying, ‘We’ll look into it.’ Nothing happened.” …

He wound up confronting the author of the e-mail directly. “I said, ‘From now on, every e-mail you send this reporter will be on the record, and you will be speaking on behalf of the president of the United States.’ That shut it down.”

Neil Munro, White House correspondent for the conservative Daily Caller, says that after he interrupted Obama during a June 2012 press conference on immigration — inadvertently, Munro insists — he felt the wrath of the administration. “The White House called and bitched us out vigorously,” he says. “I haven’t been called on since shortly after Osama bin Laden was killed.”

“I’ve seen reporters get abused — but it’s the job of the press to push back hard,” says Ron Fournier, a White House correspondent under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. “The people you’re covering don’t feel like they should be challenged, and they have immense resources at their disposal to beat back.”

Apparently to work for the Obama administration (or, for that matter, the Wisconsin Democratic Party, it seems) you must be an amoral scumbag. (I wonder what Obama would think if his daughters were referred to as  “bitch, c–t, a–hole.”) Such behavior on the part of a Republican administration would get universal (and deserved) condemnation from every newspaper of any size. A Democratic administration gets a pass, apparently.

Taranto gets the last word:

What Woodward, Fournier and more than a few other Washington journalists ought to regret is the degree to which they have allowed themselves to become personally attached to the presidency of Barack Obama.

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