No sooner had Barack Obama instructed his local post office to forward his mail to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue than liberal commentators got busy comparing him to past presidents. To some, he was the liberal answer to Ronald Reagan. To others he was the second coming of FDR. Some inexplicably even saw in him shades of Abraham Lincoln.
In recent weeks and months, the comparisons have migrated more in the direction of Jimmy Carter. And now a major daily has done the unthinkable. It has compared Obama to—dare it be said?—Richard Nixon.
An editorial published in the paper yesterday stated that
[t]he Obama White House’s restrictions on media access to its fundraising events makes a mockery of its claim to be the most transparent administration in history.
If anything, there is almost a Nixonian quality to the level of control, paranoia—and lack of credibility—this White House has demonstrated on the issue of media access to President Obama’s fundraisers.
So which smut rag was it that stooped to using one of the dirtiest adjectives in the liberal arsenal, “Nixonian,” to describe the 44th president? Was it the Boston Herald? The Washington Times? Nope. It was the ever left-leaning San Francisco Chronicle, whose editors went on to bemoan the fact that
Bay Area reporters will not be allowed inside the W Hotel today when the president meets with hundreds of contributors paying $7,500 or more to attend. Only Washington-based journalists were allowed in the pool—continuing a disturbing trend by this White House to severely limit access to fundraisers. Even former President George W. Bush, hardly a champion of transparency, allowed local reporters to cover his fundraising events.
Ouch! First Nixon, and now the even lower blow of comparing Obama with George W. Bush.
The editorial is the continuation of a feud between the White House and Chronicle that began in April when staffer Carla Marinucci was sent to cover an Obama fundraiser at San Francisco’s St. Regis Hotel. When a chorus of protesters mocked the president, Marinucci captured a video of the leader of the free world mid-glower on her cell phone camera.
The next day the White House communications office announced that Marinucci would be banished from covering all future presidential visits to the Bay Area. The reason given was that she had broken with protocol, which prohibits reporters from the “print pool” from using multimedia devices.
The only problem is that the argument is bogus. As Chronicle editor at large Phil Bronstein wrote at the paper’s blog SFGate:
Video is every bit a part of any journalist’s tool kit these days as a functioning pen that doesn’t leak through your pocket.
The White House responded by shuffling its feet, coughing nervously, and repeating the refrain “a rule is a rule. This was met with an even louder volley from the Chronicle, by editor Ward Bushee, who wrote two days after the incident occurred:
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….
What of the promise of transparency? Maybe it is yet to come. On Monday, Obama told a crowd of supporters that by his lights he has completed 60% of the campaign promises he made. Maybe transparency is on his to-do list, along with closing the terrorist detainee camp at Guantanamo Bay and installing solar panels on the White House roof. But if I were a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, I wouldn’t be holding my breath.
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