Events in the area of the media were making news the last few days:
Couch-gate. Kellyanne Conway was captured with her feet up on an Oval Office couch which caused an Internet sensation. Looking at it in context, Ms Conway was angling her telephone camera to get a a picture of the assembled crowd and apparently putting her feet up helped to get the angle. Sorry, you don’t put your feet up on a couch in the Oval unless you’re the President of the United States or you’ve fainted and are being attended by medical folks.
Dinner-gate. President Trump announced he will not attend this year’s The White House Correspondents Dinner, or the “nerd prom” as it’s called in DC.
With the war going on between the White House and the press, probably a good decision and a way to avoid being called a hypocrite over this issue. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend many of these dinners during my time in Washington. In those days it had not yet transformed itself into Hollywood on the Potomac. In fact, it was during my years in DC that the first “celebrities” began to be invited. But it was maybe one or two. These days, the bold-faced Hollywood names seem to outnumber the ink-stained wretches of the press. There’s even a red carpet before the dinner that Wolf walks down!
I view Trump’s decision not to attend as an opportunity to hit the reset button on the dinner. It served for many years as the one night reporters and government representatives sat down and broke bread, albeit dressed in black tie. Maybe it seems too chummy a night for some, but I enjoyed it. I got to see reporters who covered my bosses and we got to know each other in a different environment. It made the relationships better.
It’s even more important today when reporters do a lot of their work via texting or email, and aren’t live and one-on-one with the government types in a personal way.
Similar to the Congress. Used to be senators and congressmen stayed in DC. Now they need to be home to raise money every free day. Many of their families remain in their home states so they go home to visit them.
It all leads to not developing relationships that would allow us to talk with each other, not at each other.
Leak-gate. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is investigating his own staff for leaks. He held a meeting and confiscated phones to see what was on them in texts or encrypted chat apps that would mask their identities so they can communicate with reporters. Repeat: the White House press secretary is pulling surprise checks on his own staff to see if they are leaking. I thought I woke up and Richard Nixon was president again (then again..).
This is not normal, people. Sean likely will never determine who, if anyone, on his staff is leaking to reporters. And his boss won’t find them either.
And that, for us, is a good thing. Because that is what the media are for: to keep an eye on our government and make sure we the public know what’s going on — even if those we elected prefer not to tell us.
Reports are that the president himself approved this method of investigation and also approved Spicer barring some media outlets from a “gaggle” the other day. Today, they deny those charges. Frankly, I have no inside info but in this particular White House, I can’t imagine there’s a lot of free-lancing going on.
So, the potential for a reset on the correspondents’ dinner, a good thing. Spicer paranoid enough to check his own staff for leaks, a bad thing.
Show him the gate? As an old political friend of mine, Rich Galen, wrote yesterday, as enticing as it is to get the White House press secretary job, you have to know when to leave it to maintain the only coin you have in that world: your credibility and reputation. Sooner or later, Spicer, should, leave to maintain his credibility, and some sense of decency.
If I thought he was keeping the President from doing things Spicer and his direct boss, Reince Priebus, know are just dumb, I’d say hang in there, you have an obligation to your country.
But no one is changing a 70-year-old man, especially when his Rasputin, Steve Bannon, is always whispering sweet “deconstruction” in his ear to get Trump the main thing he loves — attention.