The White House’s behavior throughout the sequester process has been baffling to some. Until Friday’s news conference mainstream media never showed much skepticism about the reams of scare stories being passed around. And if not for Bob Woodward, not a single news outlet would have reported the origin of the sequester. (Think about the level of negligence involved on that point alone.) Whether on account of bias or ineptitude, media haven’t been very good at extracting the truth until quite recently.
The Post’s Glenn Kessler added the final Pinocchios on Friday to the treasure trove the White House has racked up. He found that the president’s claim that janitors and security guards at the Capitol would get a pay cut to be patently false:
Obama’s remarks continue the administration’s pattern of overstating the potential impact of the sequester, which we have explored this week. But this error is particularly bad — and nerve-wracking to the janitors and security guards who were misled by the president’s comments.
We originally thought this was maybe a Two Pinocchio rating, but in light of the AOC memo and the confirmation that security guards will not face a pay cut, nothing in Obama’s statement came close to being correct.
There is no delicate way to put this: The president repeatedly has not told the truth, and the vast majority of the press corps hasn’t bothered to point this out. I’m not sure which is worse — a president so indifferent to the truth or media so derelict in their obligation to find out and report the facts.
So let us give the media some help. In the days that follow they should be asking a raft of questions, including these:
Why did the president go out to hype the sequester and mislead the public? Did his own staff mislead him, or did he willingly engage in this travesty?
Is anyone going to be fired for concocting this web of falsehoods? Will the president correct the record and/or apologize?
Did no one realize the president would have to walk the hysteria back? Did anyone warn the president not to do this?
Why was there a gag order on Cabinet officials until the last couple of weeks? Why was not advanced planning done (e.g., curtailing travel) in anticipation of the sequester?
This of course is the second significant instance in which the White House was (and still is ) snowing the public, dodging Congress and using the slothful or biased (or both) media to manipulate the public. The first was, of course, the Benghazi attack. The media nearly uniformly insisted it was a non-story during the campaign (wow, just like the Obama election team). The president was never confronted about his own actions or whereabouts on Sept. 11, when four Americans were killed. The White House withheld documents from Congress or so redacted them as to render them useless. Obama was AWOL that night, a fact that would not have come to light had not then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spilled the beans.
What flows from all of this? On the media side, any conscientious news outlet would do some soul searching and internal review. Why has it missed or ignored huge stories? How can it break free from group-think reporting? Why has it been so gullible? To what degree has White House intimidation affected its reporting? Do media need to offer retractions and apologies to their readers and viewers?
On the congressional side, the Senate foolishly let two major confirmations slip through, those of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Treasury Secretary and Jack Lew, without putting a halt to the imperious refusal to come clean on national security matters. Republicans should buck up and refuse to let through the last of the significant nominees, CIA director nominee John Brennan, until the White House coughs up un-redacted Benghazi documents, explains the president’s whereabouts, reveals its finding on the national security leak scandal ( Remember that one?) and explains Brennan’s role in all of that. Both chambers of Congress must diligently conduct oversight hearings on everything from the sequester to the failure to devise coherent Arab Spring policy.
It’s well past time to draw the line with the administration. (The White House is so contemptuous of the Senate that it won’t even answer Sen. Rand Paul’s simple question about use of drones domestically.)
We have reached a grim state of affairs. The press hasn’t challenged and won’t challenge the president. Congress has been bamboozled and put off again and again. And the president has used his bully pulpit to evade, dissemble and scare the public, refusing to accept responsibility for his own conduct. I have little hope for media, but Congress can wake up and do its job, through oversight hearings and if need be by shutting down confirmations. And the press that will then holler about “gridlock”? Well, the media are the very ones who didn’t do their jobs in these many instances, so perhaps they might consider why the Senate Republicans have to resort to such measures. Maybe media sycophants will stop heckling those demanding information and join them. That would be a welcome change.