Peter Baker's long New York Times Magazine feature on President Obama at the halfway point paints a fairly expected picture.
Any meaningful political scandal must have one of three elements. The highest level of scandal involves some breaking of a law. The next-highest involves breaking some well-established behavioral norm. The lowest level involves a public official lying. The odd thing about the "scandal" of whether the White House offered a job to Joe Sestak is that it involves no credible charge of any of the three.
Here's a good window into the mentality of the Washington press corps. New York Times political reporter Peter Baker tweaks President Obama for not making himself available to answer a question about... last night's election result: At a ceremony to sign a bill promoting press freedom around the world on Monday, President Obama refused to take questions from the reporters in attendance.
Allow me to posit a case study: Two high-ranking government officials are the subject of multiple newspaper and magazine profiles in the span of a few weeks. The first official resists the attention. He isn’t so much as quoted in any of the pieces, whose authors glumly note his lack of enthusiasm for their projects. By contrast, the second official goes out of his way to cooperate with the profile-writers. He submits to numerous, on-the-record interviews and mounts a detailed defense of his actions.
On July 2 of last year, Politico broke a startling story: The Washington Post was planning to host off-the-record salons at which sponsors would pay to mingle with D.C. eminences and Post writers. The dinners--the first of which had been advertised in Post fliers as an “exclusive opportunity to participate in the health-care reform debate among the select few who will actually get it done”--were to take place at the home of Katharine Weymouth, the Post’s publisher. Weymouth, granddaughter of legendary Post owner Katharine Graham, had only been on the job for a year and a half.
Peter Baker's upcoming New York Times Magazine cover story (mentioned by Mike below) on Obama and terrorism has this slightly unsettling nugget: [Obama] is committed to taking aggressive actions to disrupt terrorist cells, aides said, but he also considers his speech in Cairo to the Islamic world in June central to his efforts to combat terrorism. “If you asked him what are the most important things he’s done to fight terrorism in his first year, he would put Cairo in the top three,” Rahm Emanuel, his chief of staff, told me. Really?
Peter Baker's splashy new NYT magazine piece focuses in part on Obama's newly-visible counterterrorism chief: Most of those people, of course, were in the moderate camp inside the Bush administration, not the Cheney cadre, or like Brennan they present themselves as simply career professionals who followed orders or who even quietly dissented from the most extreme policies of the last eight years. “I was somebody who did oppose waterboarding,” Brennan told me. “I opposed different aspects of the enhanced interrogation program.
It’s not often that a journalist manages to provoke immediate responses from the presidents of both the United States and Russia, but Peter Baker pulled it off Tuesday. Writing in The New York Times, Baker revealed the existence of a “secret letter” in which Barack Obama suggested that if Russia helped prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, the United States might abandon its planned missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Both presidents denied that the letter offered an explicit quid pro quo, but interestingly both noted that such a trade could be a good one.