Press Briefing … No Sound, No Picture … No Information

Sometimes I pass over a story that I might normally be expected to tackle.  First, I can only manage to write two posts a day, sometimes not even that.  Second, I try to be sensitive and some topics just really ought to be left alone.  Third, some topics get old after a few posts and one finds oneself being repetitious.  There is, however, one topic that I will always tackle when I see it, and that is free press/free speech issues.  Today, it is back on my radar.

Reporters were barred from recording video or audio footage during Monday afternoon’s White House press briefing. The reason for this aberration?  Who knows?  The excuse Press Secretary Sean Spicer gave was that Trump had already given a comment earlier in the day and would be making another comment later in the day, thus … “there are days that I’ll decide that the president’s voice should be the one that speaks and iterate his priorities.” Who knew that we are limited to two comments per day?

CNN’s senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta said, “Make no mistake about what we are all witnessing. This is a WH that is stonewalling the news media. Hiding behind no camera/no audio gaggles. It just feels like we’re slowly but surely being dragged into what is a new normal in this country where the President of the United States is allowed to insulate himself from answering hard questions.”

Even when cameras and recorders are allowed in, the press briefing has become a Cliff Notes version, yielding little, if any, useful information.  Spicer’s briefing on Monday may have set a record for brevity — he took questions for less than 11 minutes. Among his responses to 22 questions, he cited previous presidential statements, deferred answering or said he didn’t know 11 times.

“One major change [from previous administrations] is the hostility emanating from the administration for certain members of the press,” said April Ryan, who has covered the White House since President Bill Clinton’s last term. Ryan said Mike McCurry, Clinton’s press secretary, once described the White House’s interactions with the media as “a friendly adversarial relationship. Nowadays the friendly has been dropped from that analogy.”

Larry-Sabato

Larry Sabato

Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, whose opinion I generally respect, says that perhaps the daily press briefings no longer have value:

“Particularly in this administration, most of what you hear in a press secretary’s press conference, in that daily briefing, is misrepresentations, outright lies, and propaganda. And, on the whole, I think people would do better without that.”

I certainly agree with the first part of his statement, but disagree that we would do better without them.  The press briefings are the chance to at least attempt to pin down the administration, to hold them accountable. Martha Kumar, a professor who studies White House communications, also disagrees with Sabato, saying …

“The briefing is an opportunity to hold people accountable, and just knowing that reporters are going to ask questions, that becomes part of policy thoughts and discussions within an administration.”

The level of secrecy within the administration is unprecedented.  According to a Washington Post article this evening, in addition to the secrecy surrounding the senate health care bill, numerous federal agencies are refusing to share internal documents with Congress, Trump is still refusing to release his tax returns, visitor logs are no longer released by the White House, and Trump even refuses to admit whether he played golf on the weekends.  “More and more in the Trump era, business in Washington is happening behind closed doors. The federal government’s leaders are hiding from public scrutiny — and their penchant for secrecy represents a stark departure from the campaign promises of Trump and his fellow Republicans to usher in newfound transparency.”

Even outgoing Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz said, “I see a bureaucracy that doesn’t want documents and the truth out the door . . . and just flipping the middle finger at Congress.”

I already believe Trump and his White House staff are guilty of gross abuses of power, lies, secrecy and deflection.  Can you imagine how much worse it could be if there were no oversight by the press?  If nobody had to answer, or at least pretend to answer the tough questions?  Once we take away oversight by the press, we have opened the door for far more corruption than currently exists.  We have opened the door from which our democratic freedoms will exit.

46 thoughts on “Press Briefing … No Sound, No Picture … No Information

  1. Jill, the First amendment gets run over, while the Second amendment gets enhanced. What is wrong with this picture? On the flip side, I can do Spicer’s press conferences for him – defend lie, when pushed say I don’t know what the President is thinking, but at all times be belligerent and smug.

    I think the questions should be data laced using pronouncements of this administration. Mr. Spicer, Mr. Pruitt said there have been 50,000 coal industry jobs created under this President. Another legitimate source says 1,300. How can you reconcile the two figures?

    Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    • The press secretary’s job is solely for the purpose of presenting the Administration point-of-view. Nevermind if it is true or not, just say what the boss tells ya to say. In all of our presidential administrations previously—Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Carter, etc.—the secretary reported to the press positions and progress of relations with the rest of the world based on facts (or at least “official” facts) on behalf of the President. Not that there was never controversy about reporting on sensitive subjects such as Iran-Contra, Watergate, dealings with enemies and/or adversaries, and political stands of the current administration.

      Liked by 1 person

      • True … and this is an unprecedented administration, so it’s difficult to compare say, Sean Spicer to George Stephanopoulos. But at least most past press secretaries could elaborate or answer a question that wasn’t in the script. Poor Sean just stutters and shuts down. I do feel sorry for him though, as I believe he is out of his league. I don’t know why he stays … I would have left long ago.

        Like

        • Jill, watching the ABC historical show on Watergate, I found it interesting the remorse of Nixon’s press agent who was not given the real story to go speak with the press. So, he attacked The Washington Post and tried to minimize the story while denying all allegations. And, then it slowly became apparent that he was being lied to by his boss. Likewise, Spicer is being lied to by his boss, as his boss is not well-acquainted with truth telling. Keith

          Liked by 1 person

          • True, but the difference is Nixon was a fairly convincing liar and a man of some intelligence. Trump being … well, Trump … it seems that Spicer must surely be smart enough to see the lies. I vacillate between feeling sorry for Spicey and despising him for not having a conscience.

            Like

    • Yes, these days simply knowing how to say “I don’t know” seems to suffice for the press secretary! But I fully agree about the data-based questions. The press needs to step back and assess their line of questioning, lay off the open-ended questions that leave a lot of wiggle room, and pin them down with specific questions that must have specific answers. Not that I think they would actually know or be forthcoming with the answers, but it would shine a light on either their ignorance or malfeasance.

      Like

  2. Dear Jill,

    You nailed it. This way it is the president’s tweets, alt reality world that carries the day because DDT is perfectly comfortable with what he says while is press spokesmen might feel differently as it is not second nature to them unless one happens to be his newest attorney Jay Sekulow who hit the Sunday talk shows where his performance pleased DDT, no end, but he made a complete fool of himself with the rest of the world.

    Incidentally, the president was very approving of the reality TV show that Jeff Sessions conducted in front of the US Intel Committee.But he may have put himself in legal jeopardy.

    With the president’s unrealistic expectations for anyone who speaks on his behalf to lie as comfortably as he does, he’s not likely to find the perfect person.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Gronda!!! Yes, Sekulow made a complete fool of himself, denying that which Trump had already admitted! But then … that seems to have become the norm in this administration’s communications.

      As far as the press secretary … Spicer is out of his league and apparently soon to be working “behind the scenes”, but it appears to me that Sarah Huckabee Sanders is perfectly content and comfortable doing Trump’s bidding and doesn’t appear to mind lying at all! Frankly, she disgusts me. But then … most everybody in the White House today disgusts me, so perhaps I am not unbiased. 🙂

      Hugs!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I can see members of the opposition starting to disappear or be arrested next. That will be just about the time they declare Trump President for Life for the good of the Country. Russian advisers will start to appear next.
    xxx Gigantic Hugs xxx

    Liked by 3 people

    • Not as far fetched as I would like to believe. In fact, when it was first announced that Comey would be testifying before the Senate investigation, I halfway expected to hear that he had ‘disappeared’ or been involved in an auto accident. It’s sad that we are starting to think that way, and it is a definite sign of lack of trust in our government. Surprise, huh?
      xxx Cwtch Mawr xxx

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Well more fool them. If they don’t level with folk, folk will make up the news themselves.
    Hey the supporters of the excuse for an administration shouldn’t grumble, they’ve been doing it for years!
    (Every time I think of the Whitehouse crew I think of the background crowds of oddballs which used to fill up the panels in the MAD magazines of the 1950s)

    Liked by 3 people

    • It is beginning to feel a bit that way. I will not be surprised if eventually the powers-that-be shut down the daily press briefings. It must, after all, be a lot of work to come up with all those lies and “alternative facts”!

      Liked by 1 person

I would like to hear your opinion, so please comment if you feel so inclined.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s