Archives for July 2007
When the White House Correspondents Association meets for its annual dinner on Saturday night, don’t expect to see Askia Muhammad, who says his White House press credential “was not renewed last month, after 30 years, and being renewed 14 times, by the last five White House press offices, including three times by ‘Bush 43.”
Muhammad, who reports for broadcast outlets as well as the Final Call and Washington Informer newspapers, is one of the latest victims of Secret Service efforts to trim the number of White House reporters who hold permanent press credentials. The efforts began during the Clinton years, but accelerated after Sept. 11, 2001, reporters say.
“The Secret Service has indicated over the last several years that they want to see a reduction in the hard passes,” which gain reporters quicker entry at the White House gates, Steve Scully of C-Span, president of the White House Correspondents Association, told Journal-isms.
Martha Kumar author of the upcoming book, “Managing the President’s Message,” says the number of accredited journalists at the White House has been “sharply reduced.”
The Secret Service is counting the number of times the pass is used and failing to renew the passes of those who use it “infrequently,” Scully said, adding that “infrequently” has not been defined. “We prefer to use the system as it is,” but “we have to live with the process of the White House.” All his group can do is warn its members.
Sonya Ross, news editor – regionals in the Associated Press Washington bureau, said she got tired of going to the White House simply to keep her credentials up. She no longer covers the building, and said that in any case the pass was no longer good for taking visitors to the annual Easter egg roll, or guiding people on tours. And journalistically, “The White House is definitely a news-free zone,” she said.
Muhammad, who said he went to the White House “not more than once or twice a month” because it lacks sufficient work space “for use of those who are not in the coterie,” is not a member of the White House Correspondents Association. That organization also relegates non-daily reporters like him to second-tier status, he said.
“I wrote the White House Press Office in JANUARY, concerning credential renewal. It did not expire until March 30. They never said a mumbling word at that time, concerning roll being taken in order to be accredited again. That’s the outrage,” Muhammad said by e-mail. April Ryan, who covers the White House for American Urban Radio networks, said of the executive mansion, “It’s a very strange place to work. Things are not necessarily told. You can find things out just by hearing things in the wind.”
Muhammad sees a racial element at work. “Although I have been kicked out of fancier parties than this one, I resent the decision,” he continued. “I think it is insensitive because there are so few Blacks accredited to begin with, and . . . April Ryan with American Urban Radio, is the only other person accredited to a Black news outlet,” he said.
He won’t miss not being at the annual correspondents dinners. He hadn’t been going anyway.
By Dana Milbank
Wednesday, July 4, 2007; A02
Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
— Jabberwocky, 1871.
I’m sure that the vice president may have expressed an opinion, but the fact is, the president understands the — and he may have recused himself; I honestly don’t know.
— White House press briefing, yesterday.
Lewis Carroll had nothing on the Bush White House of 2007.
The president and his aides have been trending toward the margins of reality for some time now, but with this week’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s prison term, the administration’s statements dissolved into nonsense.
President Bush, fielding questions yesterday after visiting wounded soldiers at Walter Reed, declared that “the jury verdict should stand” — and then, in answer to the same question, said he was open to vacating the verdict by granting Libby a full pardon.
Logic suffered a more serious challenge when Bush press secretary Tony Snow, in his briefing, made the following points about Libby’s case:
· That Bush wasn’t “granting a favor to anyone” but that the case got his “special handling.”
· That it was not done for “political reasons” even though “it was political.”
· That it was handled “in a routine manner,” yet it was also “an extraordinary case.”
· That “we are not going to make comments” on the case, even though Bush had already issued a 655-word statement commenting on the case.
And if that makes sense to you, beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the frumious Bandersnatch.
“You’re insulting our intelligence,” one of the reporters advised Snow.
“How can you stand there with a straight face?” queried CBS News’s Bill Plante.
That Snow was standing there at all was an act of courage. His hair is thinning and his frame is gaunt from his battle with cancer, and he has a port in his chest into which chemotherapy drugs are injected. And Bush has made things increasingly difficult for Snow since the press secretary took the job 15 months ago. The president’s popularity has plunged into the 20s, he has lost both houses of Congress, the Iraq war is a debacle, and his vice president has attempted to remove himself from the executive branch. Richard Nixon had been the standard by which presidential failures are measured, but even Nixon was not this low this long.
Snow was late for his briefing yesterday, so one of the cameramen stood on the podium and did an impersonation of the gravelly-voiced spokesman. “We figured the president’s ratings were so low at this point that it didn’t matter if we commuted his sentence,” the impersonator announced.
That may well be true, but the real Snow couldn’t come out and say that. Instead, he crossed his ankles behind the lectern and established his opening position: that “the president does not look upon this as granting a favor to anyone.”
“Why shouldn’t it be thought of as a bestowal of a favor,” asked Plante, “when there are dozens of other people who would probably make the same case that their sentences were too heavy and should have been commuted?”
“Well, I’m not sure that there are dozens of others,” the spokesman ventured.