I was taken aback by the positive reaction by many members of the Press who were excited when the Biden Administration announced they were going to resume daily press briefings. Why would they want to listen to a hand-picked flack disgorging half-baked answers about subjects on which they are barely enlightened?
Say what you will about President Trump; he was ever accessible to the Press. He took on every question from the WH press corps and only left when he was being rushed off to do other presidential matters. Many in the Press asked him snarky questions because of their defined distaste for him, but at least they were getting answers directly from the elected President. It was hoped that Trump had redefined access to our elected officials and transparency from our government.
It seems like with this President who refuses to engage the Press unless in highly scripted manner that we really have President Psaki. Except she spends most her time obfuscating. Here is a hint on life: when a politician comes into office and talks about how transparent their administration is going to be, bet the house that it will be the exact opposite.
President Psaki is always avoiding answers to questions. She has often used a phrase that should be stricken from the English language: “I will circle back to you on that.” If the question ever gets answered it certainly does not at the next press briefing. A recent innovation she had adopted is telling the members of the WH press corps to go get the answer from a department in the Executive branch. Someone finally asked her something akin to does not the WH get information flowing up from the departments. The question regarding the crisis at the border is kicked to Homeland Security and the question never gets answered.
When we do get to see the other person (supposedly is President), it is in a limited setting or with one extremely friendly reporter like when he sat with George Stephanopoulos. There the big news was a change in position on the filibuster rules in the Senate. It was stated we should go back to the rules in place when he came into the Senate. Senators actually had to stand at the podium and talk for hours on end – the Talking Filibuster.
That was an outright lie. In 1972 the Senate Majority leader, Mike Mansfield (D-MO), changed the rule to have Silent Filibusters. He did it because with the Talking Filibuster the only thing that went on in the Senate was Senators talking on end. The Silent Filibuster allowed for a separate track where nominations could be processed, treaties reviewed, etc. Since this person who supposedly is President did not come into the Senate until a year later, he never experienced the Talking Filibuster. He may have recalled an actual change two years after his arrival – the lowering of the requirement to break a filibuster from 67 members to 60 members.
If we had a functioning press that would have been broadly pointed out instead of the inaccurate position being repeated over and over again.
Follow this with the recent first press conference from the person we thought we elected President. When asked about the filibuster, he spoke of dismantling it and cited the fact it had recently been used in an excessive fashion. Yes, it was just last year by his own party with participation by his own V-P. You would think his handlers would give him less damaging talking points.
I recently experienced a functioning press via a wonderful movie that has now been nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign film. For the sake of not ruining the movie, my commentary will be limited.
Collective tells the story of a 2015 fire in a Romanian night club that caused the death of 64 people. The incident initially gained world attention, but what followed was the real story. A group of journalists led by a sports publication came to discover rampant corruption in medical care throughout the Romanian hospital system. More people died from infections in the hospitals (37) than died from the fire. That does not include individuals who survived, but with lifelong disabilities.
Catalin Tolontin, who led the investigation, dug in asking question after question demanding answers. The story uncovers rampant corruptions, a suicide to avoid guilt and a fascinating story. The after story obscures the initial story of the fire in the club caused by pyrotechnics where there were no emergency exits. The film shows the fire in the club and how amazingly quickly it spreads. It is fascinating to watch. What were they thinking setting off these pyrotechnics in this location?
Mr. Tolontin states at one point how the press is guilty of accepting at face value answers given by officials and they do not examine the answers. He admits he has been guilty of doing that himself. That is how the Romanians got to this point of dysfunction in their health care system.
We used to have a functioning press that rooted out corruption and questioned statements coming from authorities not just from government, but other institutions. They now seem to only question one side of the political aisle and abandon investigation of statements from the other side.
That is how we ended up with President Psaki.