No word from the White House or from ABC on how the historic interview between President Obama and the network’s Robin Roberts came about. The New York Times called it a “hastily-arranged” session and puts forward some theories as to why the president chose to sit down with Roberts.
Yet the key player in this drama is neither Roberts nor even the White House. It’s the White House press corps.
Vice President Biden’s comments on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” kicked off this news cycle with his pronouncement of “comfort” with gay marriage. A common interpretation was that he was speaking out of turn, as he so often has, though at least one onlooker questioned whether it was part of a strategy. Whatever the intentions, the story line made it into Monday with an uncertain future: Would Obama have to come forward and say something in reference to Biden’s comments? Or would the story die off, overtaken perhaps by a thwarted underwear bombing and the like?
A group of reporters on Monday afternoon put an end to any such speculation. Press secretary Jay Carney’s briefing devolved in no time into a monotopical beatdown, with Jake Tapper, Norah O’Donnell and many others wondering aloud whether Obama had reached a terminus in his evolution on same-sex marriage. Carney deftly tried every word combo in his lexicon to emphasize that he didn’t have any updates for the public on his boss’s personal view of the matter.
It was a less direct articulation than what Obama campaign aide Stephanie Cutter told MSNBC the same day: “I’m not going to make news on the president’s beliefs on gay marriage today.”
Implicit in Cutter’s statement was power. She was holding something back. Withholding news means possessing it.
Again, there are all sorts of theories about what, if anything, the White House may have planned — or not planned — to do through Biden’s Sunday remarks. What became clear by Monday evening, though, was that the press was either going to get that news or continue torturing the White House in an effort to do so.