As I understand
the profound concern of the ever-alert White House reporters,
they smell a constitutional crisis because the shooting party
failed to alert the media of the accidental shooting down in Corpus
Christi, Texas. Well, actually, they did alert the Corpus Christi
media -- but that didn't count. Unless the exalted ones have been
formally informed by an official government press secretary, no
public communication has technically occurred.
the bylaws of the White House press corp, and they are right.
It seems that the bylaws refer to Article XXIII of the U.S. Constitution,
which expressly designates that White House reporters with a minimum
annual income of $375,000 (plus minimum stock options equal to
not less than two-thirds their yearly salary, plus use of driver
and long sedan during business hours, of which hours must include
post-deadline dinner engagements of a semi-social nature) are
the exclusive recipients of all government information.
isn't hand-delivered in gilt-edged paper to them while they are
reclined on their chaise lounges, it hasn't been released to the
public. And if they don't report a fact, it hasn't happened. This
provision is vital to a vigorous and independent free press. [I
should note, my copy of the Constitution must be outdated, because
it doesn't have an Article XXIII.]
this provision technically makes the White House press corp not
reporters, but receivers -- sort of glorified shipping clerks,
but with the prerogative to re-write and re-package the material
before they deliver it to the public.
out-of-town newspaper got the scoop, the dignity of the White
House press corp had been impeached, so they threw a public temper
tantrum. As that has worked for many of them since their early
childhood, they obviously expect it to work while on the job --
to use the term loosely.
To add to
their indignity, the reporter for the Washington Post
went on MSNBC dressed up in a hunting costume to ridicule the
vice president. (It is said that the enfeebled and debased French
dauphin, Charles VII, dressed in women's clothing to hide from
Joan of Arc, who was trying to save France.)
most of us, as we rise in life, develop a sense of entitlement
and pompous dignity. Doubtless we all think we are more important
than we are. As Charles De Gaulle once sardonically observed,
"The graveyards are full of indispensable men."
Washington press corp, and particularly the White House press
corp, has developed, as an institution, a grossly dilated view
of itself. Most of us can tolerate arrogance if it is accompanied
by extraordinary capacity and virtuosity. The brilliant scientist,
the war-winning general, the great artists are entitled to their
hallmark of the Washington Press corp these days is mediocrity,
groupthink, a lack of curiosity and rampant careerism. These attributes
were all on show in the shooting party incident. But this is just
a trivial incident -- except for the poor, shot gentleman who
suffered a heart attack, may he recover fully and quickly.
at a moment of revolutionary change in the international order.
The rise and violence of radical, possibly caliphate-forming Islam
and the huge, culture-changing, unexamined consequences of rampant
globalization make the present one of the least predictable moments
to be alive.
officials and citizens are in desperate need of a national press
corp that is alive to the change and digging to find factual hints
of the near future. We need the kind of future-oriented intellectual
vigor, curiosity and genuine iconoclasm that typified American
reporters in the first half of the last century.
as the shooting party incident exemplified, we have in the White
House at the most elite level of American journalism, self-absorbed,
self-important men and women who stand on their prerogatives even
over marginal and inconsequential matters.
ever have a truly daring, creative, productive, hard-researched
idea about what is going on in this dangerous world, they should
alert the media.