The Marshmallow Scandal
Mother Davis writes herself a White House press pass as she considers,
I expect a lot of scandals from the Bush White House, given the combination of arrogance, corruption and secrecy with which the Republicans have run the federal government over the last few years. I’m glad to see most of these scandals come out, because they help the American people to see the true character of the Republican elites who preach so much about moral values, but act with such immorality when they are given positions of power.
There’s a new scandal brewing in the Bush White House that I’m less impressed with. I call this one the Marshmallow Scandal, because it’s a silly little confection that’s mostly just a load of sugary air.
It seems that a fellow by the name of Jeff Gannon was given special access as a reporter to cover White House press briefings – even before he had created the pretense of being a reporter, and even though his name was really James Dale Guckert. You see, Mr. Guckert is a strong supporter of George W. Bush and the Republican Party’s nationalist agenda, and used his time at White House press briefings to make a lot of pro-Bush, anti-Democrat statements, along with a few questions. Then, he wrote about the White House responses to his adulation at a web site that he called Talon News, a blatantly pro-Republican publication.
Apparently, Mr. Guckert was brought in for special meetings to collaborate with White House staff, and there is some question of whether he might have been a purposeful plant by the Republican Party itself. Former Press Secretary Ari Fleischer seemed to think so, and Mr. Guckert was helped by Texas Republican Bobby Eberle, who is the official owner of GOPUSA, as well as Talon News. Eberle was a delegate to the 2000 Republican presidential convention.
Surely there ought not to be any representatives of official political party organizations asking questions at White House press briefings, but it doesn’t look like that’s what was happening here. Are we really supposed to believe that none of the other reporters in the White House Press Corps are Republicans?
There’s also the juicy information that the man who calls himself “Jeff Gannon” turns up on the web site of a male escort service, offering himself up as a gay prostitute. Well, that’s entertaining, but so what? Is being a former prostitute, or just being gay, supposed to be a barrier to reporting on what’s going on at the White House? To propose a new puritan moral standard for journalists is not a very liberal thing to do.
The truth is that everyone has known for a long time that the Bush Administration has a special preference for working with Republican news organizations like Fox News. And it’s not been a secret that President Bush tries to strictly control journalistic coverage of his activities in the White House.
What this scandal really comes down to is the assertion that not just anybody should be allowed to report on the White House. The underlying premise of the outrage about James Guckert is the idea that White House press briefings ought to be tightly controlled and closed to all but a few of the journalistic “elite”.
Pardon me if I’m blunt, but that’s one of the dumbest ideas I’ve seen in a long time. White House press briefings ought to be more open, not less so. If someone wants to set up a new news organization and ask a few questions of the White House spokesperson, I say that’s great – even if that person is a gay partisan Republican former prostitute. I say that if we were to add more people like this into the mix – progressive and Republican, along with a good number of foreigners – the White House press briefings would get a lot more interesting and a lot more informative.
The REAL scandal is the way that so many experienced, well-credentialed reporters in the White House Press Corps have avoided asking tough questions for years. The Bush Administration has been able to control White House reporters precisely because access to the White House press briefings has been such a difficult opportunity to obtain. White House reporters are often afraid to ask difficult questions, because it’s been made clear that troublemakers will have their access credentials taken away. Take away the exclusive elitism of reporting on the White House, and you take away White House control of reporters. Then, what we read in the newspapers and see on the TV news would get a lot more interesting, and a great deal more illuminating.
Not expecting this kind of change any time soon,