CNN recently announced they’re going to boycott the annual White House Christmas party. The Trump Administration was devastated.
CNN claims they won’t attend because the president and his people are always mean to them in the White House Press Briefing room, where the president and his people regularly refer to CNN as faked news. It’s kind of understandable, considering CNN views Trump as a fake president. And now both have descended into what can only be described as childishness.
I, myself, don’t give a flying reindeer about any of it, because I’m highly allergic to both cable news and the president (they both make me break out in swear words), and as always, I wasn’t invited to the White House Christmas party. (Fine! I didn’t want to come to your stupid party anyway. I hope your Santa Claus gets a wicked fake beard rash and the egg nog curdles. (But I’m not bitter.))
However, the incident does belie my disdain for the White House Press Briefing Room. It’s the definition of an exercise in futility. Reporters never ask questions the president’s people want to be asked, and the president’s people never give the answers reporters want to hear. It’s a Road Runner/Wyle E. Coyote thing. (Which is which? That depends on your political views. But either way, one thing’s for certain: That mutt ain’t never gonna catch that rooster.) The press always (quite naively) seems to expect the president’s people to say things like, “Yeah, you caught us being criminals, so we’re going to send ourselves to jail just to please you, oh wise and powerful journalists.” While the president’s people always (quite naively) seem to expect the press to say, “Oh, wise, devoted leaders, please tell us how you’ve gone out of your way to make America the beacon of freedom and affluence it is, so we can report it to the people, who desperately need to be told just how wonderful you are, oh mighty political gods.”
Let’s face it, there’s never any news in the White House Press Room, because the game is always fixed in the president’s favor. The press only gets as much or as little information in that room as the president’s people will allow, which essentially makes the White House Press Corps the president’s private, unwilling, PR firm.
This is really nothing new, though. Historically speaking, the president, be he a Republican or a Democrat, has always viewed the White House Correspondents as his personal political water carrier. And to his credit, the current president has masterfully manipulated the White House correspondents to carry his water quite nicely, thank you very much. The major difference with this president being the Twitter factor, wherein the president posts a tweet, the White House Press reports the tweet, then asks the Press Secretary to interpret the tweet, and thus, the tweet is news twice; once when it’s sent and once when it’s defended in the Briefing Room. Gunga Din should’ve carried water so well.
Actually, presidents have been using the White House press like this (with varying degrees of effectiveness) since the days of FDR, when a swimming pool was installed in what is now the White House Press Briefing Room, and the president would use the occasion of his therapeutic swims to casually talk to reporters. Press briefings were held in other West Wing rooms after the Roosevelt Administration, culminating in 1970, when Richard Nixon had the pool removed, and set up what’s now the White House Press Briefing Room. (And, no, the irony of that isn’t lost on all us Watergate nerds.) President Reagan had the room painted its now signature blue, and had theatre seats installed, but through it all, one thing has always been the same. The White House Press Briefing Room has been a place where the president, depending on his people skills and temperament, could either gently manipulate or viciously cajole the press into being his political water carrier. Leading to now, when the room is being used almost exclusively to repeat and defend the president’s Twitter activity.
Which leads me to think maybe it’s time to fill the room with water again.
With a humongous flush handle outside the door.
Craig Carter is an Ontario resident and can be reached in care of The Argus Observer, 1160 S.W. Fourth St., Ontario, OR 97914. The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of the Argus Observer.