That -- says Jay Rosen, associate professor of journalism at New York University -- is exactly what George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have done. They’re busy stealing our country. In order to get away with it, they’ve worked like mad to change the relationship between the White House and journalists. In the process, they’ve changed the rules of the game and destroyed the ability of the news media to report on what’s really going on in the Bush Administration.
Rosen discussed this today in an interesting blog entry on Huntergate – the story about Dick Cheney’s wayward gunshot and its aftermath.
Commentators like Marlin Fitzwater, former press secretary to both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, are “livid” that Cheney made such a horrible mistake in attempting to stonewall the press on the accident. But Rosen argues that Cheney’s actions were anything but a mistake.
The public visibility of the presidency itself is under revision. More of it lies in shadow all the time. Non-communication has become the standard procedure, not a breakdown in practice but the essence of it. What Dan Froomkin calls the Bush Bubble is designed to keep more of the world out. Cheney himself is almost a shadow figure in the executive branch. His whereabouts are often not known. With these changes, executive power has grown more illegible under Bush the Younger— a sign of the times in Washington.Rosen reports that he had planned to post an interview with John Harris, the political editor of the Washington Post. However, Harris pulled the interview at the last minute without giving any explanation. Instead, Rosen posted a question he had asked Harris. I think it should be repeated here and everywhere else in the blogosphere.
And so a rough balance of power existed during that era; people could even imagine that the press had a semi-permanent or quasi-official “place” in the political order. It was known that White Houses tried to manage the news, which was part of governing. It was also known that there were limits on its ability to do so. But where, John, is it written that these limits will always be observed? What prevents a new understanding from coming into power in the White House, one that withdraws from the earlier consensus? In fact, there is nothing to prevent it; and I would argue that the Bush forces have done exactly that. They sensed that the old press system was weakened and they changed the game on you. They knew you wouldn’t react because to do so would look “too political.”…
Finally, then, here are my questions for you: Do you ever worry that Bush might have changed the game on you, and put in practice a different set of rules? And if you don’t worry about that, why the hell not? And why shouldn’t you guys—the Post and the press corps at large— change the game on Bush and company?