New Yorker Reporter Denied Seat On Obama Overseas Trip Plane

Was the campaign of Democratiic presumptive Presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama sending a publication — and perhaps the press in general — a petulant or hard-ball message? Or was it strictly coincidence?

And if it is to explained and dismissed by some as a coincidence is it as believable as being a coincidence in the political world as to the weekend clarification through a spokesman (a U.S. military spokesman…after the White House called Baghdad) of Iraq Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s comments about favoring Obama’s withdrawal timetable?

No matter what, the Politico reports something that won’t help the Obama campaign in its future press relations since it shows either a)short-sighted, stumbling staffing or b)counter productive political vindictiveness:

Forty journalists, including such leading correspondents as Dan Balz of The Washington Post, will be aboard his plane for next week’s swing through Jordan, Israel, Germany, France and England.

The campaign received 200 requests for press seats on the plane.

Among those for whom there was no room was Ryan Lizza, Washington correspondent of The New Yorker. The campaign, which was furious about the magazine’s satirical cover this week, cited space constraints in turning him away.

No matter what, this incident is already raising some press eyebrows:

There’s probably no connection whatsoever.

But the New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza, whose long, long article on Barack Obama’s early political days in Chicago’s ward politics (available here) was the reason for the magazine’s controversial cover by Barry Blitt depicting Obama as a Muslim, has been barred from traveling with Obama on his foreign field trip this week.

…..More than 200 media folks applied to fly in Europe with the freshman senator. But, alas, the Obama campaign said it simply was not able to find a seat for Lizza.

Now, that’s Chicago politics.

In a MUST READ, The Huffington Post looks at an incident that could contain the seeds of a future political boomerang. Here are two key portions:

Wow. So it’s gonna be like that, is it? Retribution for unfavorable coverage is a chilling thing to contemplate — literally, as in, it carries with it the very real risk of chilling bold, outspoken coverage. Whatever one thinks of the New Yorker cover — that it was clear satire that clearly lampooned ridiculous rumors, that it went way overboard, that it was a comedic misfire — a robust press can’t operate under threat of reprisal for unwelcome items.

Yes, I know, it happens every day (and, some would argue, pretty much every day of the last eight years). Even so, it sends a clear — and worrisome — signal from the Obama campaign: If we don’t like it, man, will you know it. (And presumably it will hurt, like being excluded from The Trip Of The Century is surely meant to do.) Adulatory Rolling Stone covers beget adulatory Rolling Stone coverswith interviews, and that goes double for Newsweek (that’s literally; yesterday on Reliable Sources, Howie Kurtz counted five of them). But otherwise, should the media fear a freeze-out?

And the long, required reading piece ends this way:

According to a Chicago pol interviewed by Lizza, he earned a reputation that “‘you’re not going to punk me, you’re not going to roll me over, you’re not going to jam me.'” That seems to be the message the Obama campaign was sending here.

Or maybe, like Ari Fleischer once warned, they would just like people to watch what they say.

If this was mere happenstance, then it’s an example of poor and short-sighted staffing. If this was unintentional, it gives the appearance of payback and shows the kind of sloppy staffwork that can sink campaigns — and that the Obama campaign has notably not shown in the past.

If it was no coincidence, then it shows the Obama campaign is going to throw down the gauntlet to news organizations that run items that create big political problems. That would mean the Obama operation may face a rocky road if Obama wins, since this kind of tactic does not portend smooth press relations. If it was sending the New Yorker a message, editors all over the country will look at it and be determined not to be intimidated if they have something the Obama camp doesn’t like during the campaign or if Obama wins the White House.

But to many, this being coincidental will likely to be seem to be to coincidences as Maliki’s insistence through a spokesman more than 12 hours after the fact and after a call from the Bush administration that Der Speigel misquoted him: it flunks both the smell and the logic tests. And cover story explanations, even those passionately echoed by axe-to-grind partisans, won’t erase the conclusion.

Some partisans will invariably say: “Well, this happens under Bush..”

And then talk about change.

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  • Ricorun

    So let's see… there were 40 slots and more than 200 applicants. That means more than four out of every five had to be turned down. So why is it necessary to conclude retribution was involved in Lizza not being selected?

    Retribution for unfavorable coverage is indeed a chilling thing to contemplate. Then again, special treatment for unfavorable coverage doesn't make much sense, either.

  • MaryL

    So Obama had to bend over backwards to give Lizza a hotly contested seat or else he would look weak and vindictive? Better that he look weak and whipped instead?

    Tempest and teapot time, Joe.

  • continuum

    You've written this column as satire, right???? Only 40 seats available, yet over 200 reporters apply. Are you now going to write an expose about why the other 160 didn't get a seat, too? Use your common sense. The New Yorker is not a daily reporting venue. The New Yorker deals with long range in depth coverage. Many of the stories require heavy research and background study. It would seem reasonable that the Obama campaign would desire more up-to-the-minute coverage at this stage in the elections.

  • jdledell

    With only 20% of the seats being able to be filled there is bound to be some favortism involved. It would be interesting to see a full roster of the lucky 40 winners to see if favortism or vindictiveness was more of the deciding factor. .

  • timr

    but st john McCain does the very same thing on a daily basis, yet what do we hear about this story…………………………..crickets.

  • debrazza

    My god I am amazed at the abounding stupidity of this. 160 people were rejected, 80% of all applications. I am sure it had more to do with the fact that there was a preference for daily papers than magazines. To attribute anything to why Lizza did not go is absolutely stupid. It is not a conspiracy, it is the math.

  • Silhouette

    Being a moderate and not a leftist or neocon (a true neocon, not a reverse I am becoming increasingly alarmed at the similarities between the two seemingly different radical camps. They are more like bookends, each a reflection of the other..

    For instance, like this “oopsies, you can't come along” manuever by the Obama camp, over at Talkleft all it took for me to get banned there, without warning, was to speak critically of Obama's lack of experience to qualify him as a president…no name calling on my behalf, no harshness, no bullying…just laying out the facts.

    WHAM, without warning or even comment, I was banned. Banned, mind you, simply for exercising my opinion about Barack Obama.

    It's this “untouchable” air that follows him that worries me. It is very reminiscent of George W. Bush in fact. And many people who spoke out against him within the ranks of his own party were systematically “banned” from the administration.

    Beware of extremes….not of differing ideas… Extremes breed the same type of fascist phenomenon, no matter what the color of the uniform…

  • ChrisWWW

    If your history at Talkleft is anything like your history here, then I can understand perfectly why they'd ban you.

  • runasim

    The MUST READ at Huhuffington Post is typical of its shallow headline grabbing, no clear thinking articles. Arianne is a media personality and her Post is competing in the media world for attention. It's the Internet version of Cable News channels competing for ratings with faux outrages and irresponsible allegations.

    Besides, Obama didn't take Arianne's' advice about veering left, so there is a lot of her resentment being channeled through opinion pieces chosen for inlcusion.

    Some MUST READS are better left unread, or at least taken for what they are, headline grabbers as marketing ploys.

  • AustinRoth

    Chris – spoken like a true Fascist, or Leftist, but I repeat myself.

  • TheSkepticalCynic

    It just goes to prove the adage
    Just One
    AW, Shit!

    wipes out at ten ATTA BOYs..

    Even as a hardcore skeptical cynic, given to acerbic and vituperative prose in satirical sarcasm or sarcastic satire I think The New Yorker went waaaay over the line,

    In assuming that its reader were so sophisticated and perspicacious as to recognize the cover as satirical , it is quite possible that they assumed a fact for which there is or was no evidence or at least so very little that the immediate reaction to it would be shock and disbelief not the laughter they were seeking. Add to this, was the comment that those for whom the caricatures might confirm their biases and prejudices “don't read The New Yorker” is just so much elitist clap trap.

    Continuum and jdledell are both right on point.

    This is just “entertainment “snewz” ” attempting to create a story where none exists. This is The New Yorker attempting to distract the focus from their factual screw up, to a MUS non-existent one. Think of WMD, .

    Debrezza you had completely right before the last sentence.
    And as for Silhouette? Reminds me of a harbor tug boat – it too makes it loudest noise when in the deepest fog!

  • KevinA

    I must, in part, agree with others here. Sklar's original HuffPo piece was speculative. She just ASSUMED the denial was nefarious. Now, maybe it was. Some in the campaign surely have way too thin skins. BUT Sklar, nor Mike Allen, actually provide evidence.

    Given that 200 journalists applied for 40 spots, evidence is needed here. After all, the other 158 who were denied could claim similar motives. Are we to assume that everyone denied was done so for pol. reasons?

  • iDEA

    “The press is the only tocsin of a nation. When it is completely silenced… all means of a general effort are taken away.” – Thomas Jefferson. It seems the Obama Administration is trying to silience the freedom of the press. It is using its own production facilities to flood every channel on the Internet with its own highly produced version of the news. Take a look at how Obama wrapped his speech with the Founding Fathers and the Constitution.