The Campaign Spot

Robert Gibbs Watches, But He Doesn’t Necessarily Listen

I was a last-minute guest on Howard Kurtz’s “Reliable Sources” this weekend, and I thought this anecdote from CNN’s Ed Henry was intriguing:

HENRY: Sometimes, and I’ll give you one quick story, which is, recently, I was on a health-care segment, and I was on Wolf Blitzer’s show. And I did a segment that was actually pointing out some new poll numbers that suggested maybe the public was turning towards the president. But when I came back to my desk in the White House, on my way back I passed Robert Gibbs’ office, and Gibbs and some of his colleagues were in there, and they were kind of yelling at me, and Gibbs was calling me on the phone because he was angry about it. I went into his office. It turned out that the chyron had said on the bottom — the graphic said something like “Desperate move by the president” to have this speech to a joint session of Congress. And I said, “But did you listen to what I was saying?” And Gibbs said with a laugh, to his credit, “We had the sound off.” So, I mean, I passed that along because . . .
KURTZ: They had the sound off?
HENRY: . . . how could they not be listening to me, Howard? That’s what I was outraged about. Listen to me.
KURTZ: This is what they based their media analysis on?
HENRY: No. But I’m saying — and a lot of people do that. A lot of people — I’m not just picking on Robert Gibbs. He was honest to say, “Look, I had the sound down.” The graphic wasn’t what he liked, but what I was actually saying was the substance of . . .

From where we sit on the right, Obama gets the best press of any president in recent memory. But from where they sit, behind those White House walls, they think they’re constantly victimized. Even when Henry reports good news, they’re focused on the chyron (and think complaining to the correspondent will fix things).

Those of us who thought the press scrutiny of Obama was ridiculously soft last year — all

89 percent of us — have another reason for why the previous cycle’s adoration was harmful: This White House isn’t ready for the usual tough coverage when events aren’t going well for them . . .


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