The press pool that was following then-President-elect Barack Obama around in 2008 probably minded a little, but there was no media firestorm. The press generally loved Obama. What he and his family did wasn’t controversial or scandalous. It didn’t receive anywhere near the attention that Trump got for eating a steak dinner with his family and friends.
Media pundits are saying that this is about Trump’s desire not to be transparent.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 16, 2016
Now that Trump is President-elect, he has to inform the press pool of his whereabouts. As CNN reported in 2008, “their purpose is to provide a public record of the official’s activities, a vital service in a functioning democracy.”
I think this has less to do with a “functioning democracy” and a lot more to do with the media’s need to generate traffic, and garner viewers, listeners, and readers, so they can make a profit. They have to spin it – that is what they’re good at after all – to make it sound like their way of making money is actually a “public service.” It’s a “vital service in a functioning democracy.”
If it’s that big of a deal that they’d criticize Trump – barely a week after his victory – why didn’t they seem to care when Obama did the same thing shortly after he became President-elect? In fact, it was in December when he ditched the press pool, and he wasn’t just out for dinner somewhere. He was on a Hawaii vacation. CNN reported at the time:
A vacationing President-elect Barack Obama slipped away from the traveling press pool that follows him wherever he goes, taking his two young daughters, family members and friends to Hawaii’s Sea Life Park.
Likewise, the New York Times reported around the same time:
In the news-free zone that is Barack Obama’s preinauguration Hawaiian vacation, this passes for a bulletin: The president-elect ditched his “press pool” of media minders to take his daughters to a water park on Friday morning.
In making his dash — with his Secret Service security detail, to be sure — Mr. Obama drew attention both to the seemingly odd but important rituals of the presidential (and prepresidential) bubble and to just how much this very private public man chafes under its constraints.
The media is pretending to be concerned that Trump’s “sneaking” out for steak dinner is a foreshadowing of how he’ll be as President. I don’t think it tells us anything about how Trump is going to deal with the media. It tells us more about how the press is going to deal with Trump.
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