He had been president for almost eight years, had brought World War II to a close, and had presided over the Marshall Plan; he had issued executive orders, launched into the Korean War, and guided the federal government during the first crises of the Cold War. He was an ordinary man who had been a fine President, and after his term ended he tried to go back to an ordinary life. He returned to Missouri and lived with his beloved wife, Bess, highly conscious of not being perceived as trading on his office or his service to the nation.
Carney was the Washington bureau chief for Time magazine before he took the press secretary job, but apparently he had flackery in his blood: he worked as communications director for Vice President Biden during the first two years of the Obama Administration.
I’m not sure why anyone would want to be the press secretary for any President. It’s a thankless and often humiliating job. On most days, you’re droning out agenda items, hoping to get the press corps interested in the latest boring policy initiative or presidential speech. When crises hit, or scandals erupt, you’re the point person who needs to go out and face the questioning so the President doesn’t have to. In those instances everyone knows that you’re spinning the news like crazy to try to make your boss look good. Your credibility ends up taking a licking, and often you end up looking like an idiot in exchanges with the press that then get posted on YouTube.
I suppose the lure of being an insider is part of the attraction, but I’d like to think that actual journalists have too much self-respect to cross over to the other side and put their personal credibility on the line for a politician.
The email is from Ben Rhodes, an assistant to President Obama and the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications. It addresses the preparation of Susan Rice, then the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, for her appearance on Sunday morning talk shows to discuss the Benghazi attack and describes “goals” to be achieved. One goal was to “underscore these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.” Another goal was to “reinforce the President and Administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.” The email also says that “the currently available information is that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired” rather than being a planned attack.
I try not to be naive about modern politics, where the immediate reaction to every bit of bad news is to try to develop a way to “spin” the news to better advantage. Everyday Americans just need to understand that, for both parties, “spin” rules the day. Even so, the newly released email is troubling. Shouldn’t spin end at the water’s edge? When we are talking about an attack that killed a U.S. Ambassador and three other Americans, isn’t the proper approach to wait until the facts are known, rather than actively shaping the comments of officials toward a story line that the White House thinks would better serve a President who is in the midst of a reelection campaign?
The “employer mandate” provision is supposed to penalize employers with more than 50 employees that do not provide certain minimum health insurance coverage for employees. The provision was supposed to take effect in 2014, but now it will take effect in 2015. The one-year delay was announced in a blog posting by an official in the Treasury Department. The Obama Administration says the delay is the result of a “dialogue” with businesses about reporting requirements. The “individual mandate,” on the other hand, remains unchanged.
Of course, people are already questioning whether the delay was politically motivated, with the Administration hoping to avoid fallout from business resistance to the new law. My questions, however, are more fundamental. The Affordable Care Act is supposed to be a federal statute. How can the Administration simply delay the effect of the law through administrative fiat? What kind of law is it that can be delayed through a blog posting by some functionary in an administrative department?
For that matter, doesn’t it seem awfully questionable to announce something so economically significant through a Treasury Department blog posting? Is it possible that the Administration hoped that the announcement would escape any notice? What’s the White House press secretary for, if not to address this kind of issue, publicly and transparently?
Set aside your views about the Affordable Care Act for a minute. From a strict accountability standpoint, shouldn’t a decision affecting the implementation of a major, controversial statute be announced in a more open and honest way, in a context where the news media might be able to ask a question or two? It seems that way to me.
These reports raise obvious questions about the real cause of the Benghazi attack and whether the Obama Administration, the U.S. State Department, and the intelligence community ignored clear danger signs — or even explicit advance warnings — about the security situation in Libya. These questions can’t be adequately answered by spin-oriented flacks like White House press secretary Jay Carney. Instead, those questions need to be asked, in a public forum, and answered under oath by knowledgeable Administration officials whose jobs involve collecting intelligence, ensuring that our diplomatic outposts are adequately safeguarded, and communicating with host countries about embassy security. We deserve to know how this fiasco happened.