As of now, I am in control here, in the White House

WashPost Zaps Jonathan Karl for Questioning White House

The Washington Post ran a story earlier this week suggesting rather strongly that ABC’s Jonathan Karl, who aggressively takes White House Press Secretary Jay Carney to task on a daily basis, is wasting everybody’s time with a self-serving made-for-TV performance.

Jonathan KarlLet’s be clear. Karl is among only a handful of reporters – like, maybe three – who are willing to seriously go toe-to-toe with Carney and hold the White House accountable for its actions and its spin. Other than the queries from Karl, Ed Henry of Fox News, and Major Garrett of CBS, the questions range from occasionally strong demands for explanations to, more usually, bread buttering inquiries about how the president feels about this or that or what’s on the plate for tomorrow’s upcoming event.

Tough questions at a televised White House briefing are a service to the republic. They allow viewers to see the White House try to explain – or avoid explaining – controversial policies. When the explanation is nonsense, it’s there for all to witness. What’s more, the inquisitions chasten the White House by forcing officials to consider that they will have to account publicly for their actions.

Carney East Room 2And yes, tough questioning does sometimes elicit news. I don’t see where the softballs generate many headlines.

Carney faces the least assertive questioning of any press secretary I’ve seen in 16 years covering the White House.

Post reporter Paul Farhi, who wrote the piece, suggests that Karl is playing for the cameras, trying to advance his career by impressing his bosses, and engaging in a self indulgent exercise that fails to elicit news and somehow even harms to the news gathering process.

Farhi lets Karl defend himself, but the the slant of the piece is pretty clear.

“Some of Karl’s fellow press-room denizens view the give-and-take skeptically,” writes Farhi. He lets one jealous, frightened little White House reporter snipe at Karl anonymously. The reporter, no doubt one who fails to muster the courage or energy to demand truth from power, whines, “How much of [this] is aimed at breaking news by getting Carney to crack under pressure, and how much of it is pure theater aimed at ratings, impressing bosses or otherwise gaining attention?”

Even National Journal’s Ron Fournier, who ironically was one of the most impressive and unbiased cross examiners in the briefing room during the Bush years, chimes in with skepticism.

Fournier, Fahri writes, “traces the decline of the briefings to 1995,” when then-White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry put them on TV in full.

“It made it more of a show and less of a place to get and give information,” Fournier said.

Fournier says the briefings “have become ‘a crutch’ for reporters — a substitute for more energetic and probing reporting.”

That last part can be true. Reporters can just do a take from the briefing and go home. And Karl, BTW, surely has one eye on his career as he blasts away at Carney. But none of that diminishes the value or courageousness of his work or the need for contentiousness in the briefing room.

And Karl’s sometimes febrile questioning of Carney suggests much more than rank opportunism is at play.

Besides, he’s taking risks too. I remember one of Karl’s predecessors on the beat at ABC asked then-President Bill Clinton a question, prefacing it with “People are saying,” or something to that effect. Clinton demanded, Who is saying? The reporter didn’t have an answer. A couple of weeks later, he was off the beat.

The briefings began their ascent, not their decline, in 1995, when TV helped foster a more confrontational attitude.

This article by the Post and the anonymous snickering picked up by Fahri – and no doubt directed suck-up style by the same reporters toward Carney as well – will provide the White House some cover when it moves, as I expect it to do, to roll back or even cancel the televised briefings.

And that will be a tragedy not only for democracy and the press, but for a White House that should value checks on its own hubris.

Photos by Keith Koffler

38 Responses to WashPost Zaps Jonathan Karl for Questioning White House

  1. White House that should value checks on its own hubris

    A stretch, I think. This sounds like a spat. I like the dustups–and frankly even the dustups don’t raise much dust.

  2. The Obama WhiteHouse and Carney the Magician should consider themselves lucky that the ‘usual suspects’ who frequent the WHD can’t get WhiteHouse Press passes.
    If we had a chance to sit in those chairs to throw out questions, MrCarney would leave the room crying like a little girl, and the WhiteHouse would turn the lights out to pretend no one’s at home.

    • Agreed. I have little sympathy for these beltway blowhards sniping at each other rather than asking the really tough questions. They wouldn’t dare ask Preezy the question I’ve been waiting for them to ask for more than 15 months now.

      Where were you and what were you doing on the night of September 11, 2012?

      • That question and the refusal to even offer anything, a lie, a half-truth is what makes it intriguing.
        What’s the big secret?
        Whatever the secret might be, it must be something that can be proven or disproven so that a lie can’t be offered.

  3. Some events have “pool reporting” where a single person gets the access and shares the “news”. Here’s my suggestion:

    Alternate the lead spot on that pool between Henry, Karl, and Koffler and let’s see what kind of detail the Carny shows “evolves” to.

    Or make it a voluntary pool. When Obama or Carny are more than five minutes late (just about every time), everybody go back to “work”. Our late speakers might decide it’s worth showing up on time.

      • If this administration was so transparent and doing the best for the folks then let us ‘We the People’ go ask the little twerp Sparky the
        questions. I will say we on this blog alone could but Carney into
        a permanent fetal position. And we are knowledgeable and aren’t
        in fear of this WH. We should be asking the questions and getting answers. But it’s a pipe dream the MSM are perfectly
        happy to appease Obama.

  4. At some point we may look at ourselves and not be so proud of where we are, who we are, or may have been. I don’t regularly follow Mr Karl, but is it possible that Karl has had enough of the fodder dumping by this admin and the toadie reporters who gobble it up verbatim? Plenty of previous administrations have dumped BS on the public as expected, but this group made lofty promises and proclamations. Now that the failures are evident I feel that they have much more to answer for.

  5. Keith,…you mentioned that Karl has one eye on his career in your post.
    I feel that the thugs should be in the media, not the administration.
    Given the record Obama has of destroying his enemies, (Clintons also),….
    he has been successful in blindfolding and muting the press whenever he deems it necessary.
    Obviously we have a congress that is either afraid of O, or complicit with his desires to destroy our Country.
    Obviously we need to change the congress into a true body of representatives of the American People.

    • Agree!!!
      I mentioned the other day. They are responible for keeping checks and balances in this Country.
      I mentioned they need stand up to all the scandels, Benghaz,
      IRS and this Health Mess. Even if it risk getting votes next election.
      I feel they can all sleep well at night, trying their best.
      They all have previous job they can go back to if people that disagree don’t vote for them again.

  6. I hope everyone here had a Merry Christmas, or whatever you may celebrate (even if it’s just a day off). I’m up in Michigan, where we had an ice storm. I got my power back after 3 days, but there are still folks w/o.

    I figured Obama was golfing. Did he go again today, I wonder?

    • If he does not like sitting, swimming, playing AT THE BEACH,
      I feel he should give me the tickiet there!!!!!
      To get back to your question, I do not know if he went golfing,
      but as stated: He could have saved us a lot of money playing golf here instead of Hawaii.
      Do they have a safe part of the White House, that he could putt putt outside there?

      • He could go to Camp David and golf in the snow using orange golf balls. Or, he could order some Marines to clear off the snow.
        If he golfed at the WhiteHouse, the missus would catch him smoking and that would be bad.

        I’m making jokes because I don’t believe it’s about “golf”, but rather an excuse for something else. What? dunno.

  7. So, WAPO has the President’s back. This can’t be news. Guess the stuff about Karl is take cover. The Alinsky isolate the target action.

  8. If the entire main stream media dedicated a full week to telling the objective truth about Obama, his background, his connections, his associations, his funding sources, his secret behind the scenes meetings–no holds barred, but nothing but the truth–people would demand that impeachment hearings start immediately.

  9. Just left my own comment over on the Post site. I can’t believe such a once great paper has sunk so low as to carry the dirty, smelly, scummy water of this administration.

    Farhi’s piece is full of his own hypocrisy and shows just how pathetic so many in the so called “press” corps have become.

    Thanks Keith, for getting the word out for those of us who prefer our truth delivered the old fashion way: Straight, to the point and w/o the White House spin.

  10. Keith, what is your take on Carney? I’d love to see a post on that.

    It seems odd to me that his predecessor Gibbs is taking a sort-of critical stance on the administration’s doings nowadays. I loathed streams of Gibbserish that flowed when he was behind the podium and likewise loathe the Carney-barking.

    Is Carney a true-believer? a shiill? do they have something over him? he surely looks sick and pressured lately, is he writhing because he must tell lies and attempt to harm good people or is he heart-sick because The One is not being worshipped properly?

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