Good morning, Mr. President! It seems that yesterday evening you received the first of your wake up calls regarding the love / hate / love relationship between the President and the White House Press Corps. President Obama made an impromptu visit to the cramped press corps suite and discovered that there is no such thing as an off day with reporters (gasp)! Obama wanted to visit and shoot the breeze as he did repeatedly during his months on the campaign trail, unfortunately, he forgot one little change: he is now the President of the United States.
Every president has to eventually face the realization that there is never a time when the questions stop and when you are allowed to be off script if there is a reporter around. They are always looking for an angle and the next big story. Furthermore, it does not matter if they like you, their job is to get the story. If you need a history lesson, rewind the tape back to 1993 to Bill Clinton’s first year in the White House. The news media loved him to and dubbed him “The Man from Hope” (sound familiar – Mr. Change) when he was running in 1992. In 1993, they hanged Clinton out to dry because him and his staff were full of good, juicy stories (Travelgate, Vince Foster, Gays in the Military debacle).
Bottom line: As my colleague Dr. Martha Joynt Kumar (who has a space in the W.H. press suite) would say, “There is a unique relationship between the President and the Press Corps built on Conflict and Cooperation.” Conflict in how much of the President’s message is getting out to the public vs. what story the press wants to pursue AND sometime cooperation in the transmission of the message of the President to the American people.
Last evening Mr. President you witnessed the beginning of the Conflict phase of the relationship… let’s see how well you can get the press corps to cooperate with you to get your agenda communicated to Capitol Hill and the rest of the world.