Yet this Beltway creature continues planting stinkbombs in the sancta of a cozy Beltway convention.
Today, Baker and fellow New York Times reporter Gardiner Harris wrote an article titled “Under Fire From G.O.P., Obama Defends Response to Terror Attacks.” It details the president’s feelings about attacks from Republicans about his allegedly weak-kneed response to ISIS and his tempered reaction to the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.
Mr. Obama said he now realizes that he was slow to respond to public fears after terrorist attacks in Paris and California, acknowledging that his low-key approach led Americans to worry that he was not doing enough to keep the country safe. He has engaged in a blitz of public events lately to try to convince them otherwise, including a visit on Thursday to the National Counterterrorism Center.
Where did the president make these acknowledgments? At a news conference? Speech? Interview with Steve Kroft?
Nope. They were expressed at an off-the-record President Obama meeting with journalists. Here’s how the New York Times article describes it:
The session with columnists was off the record, but the president’s remarks were recounted on Thursday by several people in the room after one of the writers, David Ignatius of The Washington Post, described some of the president’s thinking in a column without attributing it directly to Mr. Obama.
Taking out a reciprocating saw and hacking a skylight into the off-the-record recesses of the White House is becoming a Baker trademark. He did it back in September 2014, summarizing the president’s thinking based on interviews with people who’d met with him in two off-the-record meetings about his response to ISIS.
In today’s piece, Baker captured an Obama confession that doubles as a back-handed endorsement of this world’s CNNs and Fox Newses: “In his meeting with the columnists, Mr. Obama indicated that he did not see enough cable television to fully appreciate the anxiety after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, and made clear that he plans to step up his public arguments,” write Baker and Harris. “Republicans were telling Americans that he is not doing anything when he is doing a lot, he said.”
If Baker keeps at it, perhaps Obama will do the right thing, and just say these self-interested things on the record, where they belong. And lest anyone tweet nonsense about ethical considerations here, be it known that Baker and Harris are trodding Poynter-approved turf: Though the columnists attending these get-togethers are bound not to quote the president, Baker and Harris live under no such constraint.
At an October 2014 chatfest organized by the White House Correspondents’ Association and filmed by C-SPAN, the Erik Wemple Blog asked Baker about this stunt. “The off-the-record restriction didn’t apply to me since I wasn’t there,” said Baker. “I can’t be held to a ground rule that I didn’t agree to or profit from. And it’s our job to find out what he’s thinking. If members of Congress had gone in and talked to him about this, I would have called them and hopefully they would have told me what he said as well….I think that you can’t have 15 or 17 [people] in at a time and expect that that’s going to be an off-the-record thing these days….These are public events, in effect.”