* Because they don’t ask ‘the right questions’ and ‘they don’t matter anyhow, because they don’t vote…’
Snubbed by Obama
Snubbed by Obama
Barack ObamaÂ is on his way to Europe, where an adoring public awaits. But I wonder if the reception would be quite so enthusiastic if Obama’s fans across the Atlantic knew a dirty little secret of his remarkable presidential campaign: Although Obama portrays himself as the best candidate to engage the rest of the world and restore America’s image abroad, and many Americans support him for that reason, so far he has almost completely refused to answer questions from foreign journalists. When the press plane leaves tonight for his trip, there will be, as far as I know, no foreign media aboard. The Obama campaign has refused multiple requests from international reporters to travel with the candidate.
As a German correspondent in Washington, I am accustomed to the fact that American politicians spare little of their limited time for reporters from abroad. This is understandable: Our readers, viewers and listeners cannot vote in U.S. elections. Even so, Obama’s opponents have managed to make at least a small amount of time for international journalists.Â John McCainÂ has given many interviews.Â Hillary ClintonÂ gave a few.Â President BushÂ regularly holds round-table interviews with media from the countries to which he travels. Only Obama dismisses us so consistently.
Cooking the News:
Andrea on Obama Trip: ‘What Some Would Call Fake Interviews’
Andrea Mitchell might be a doyenne of the liberal media, but she has her reporter’s pride and principles, both of which have been trampled by the way the Obama campaign has managed the media during the candidate’s current trip to Afghanistan and Iraq.Â Mitchell let loose on this evening’s Hardball, speaking of “fake interviews” and indicating we don’t know the truth of the trip because we don’t know what was edited out of the video that’s been released.
Before Mitchell made her displeasure known, Roger Simon of Politico, Chris Matthews’s other guest during the segment, depicted the images coming out of the war zone as all Obama could have dreamed of.
View videoÂ here.
Snubbed by Obama
This spring Obama allowed at least one foreign reporter on trips to Ohio and Texas. But as the campaign has progressed, access has become more difficult for foreign correspondents. E-mail inquiries get no reply, phone calls are not returned. My colleagues and I know: We are last in line. We don’t matter.
In September 2007, I gave a lecture in Iowa titled “The U.S. in the World: How They See Us.” People in the audience asked me about the working conditions of foreign journalists and were surprised to learn how little access Obama had given us. Several Iowans wrote to his campaign to protest. In contrast to me, they did hear back: In a letter dated Nov. 24, the campaign assured one of these people that Obama cares about the foreign media and wants to increase openness. The letter even said that my contact information had been forwarded to the campaign’s communications department.
There was no follow-up.
Since I followed the Obama campaign in its early stages and published a sympathetic (and widely read) book in German about the Illinois senator, I probably have more access than most. I know the Obama “policy advisers” in Washington think tanks and the like; sometimes I manage a fleeting encounter with the senator’s press staff at campaign events. Yet I can only dream of an interview with the candidate. To my knowledge, no foreign journalist has had one. A reported interview in France’s Politique Internationale last summer turned out to be a fake. In February, Obama gave Israel’s Yediot Ahronot written answers to written questions about his views on Israel and the Middle East.
Perhaps Obama considers members of the foreign media a risk rather than an opportunity. His campaign learned the hard way how comments to foreigners can resonate at home — recall adviser Austan Goolsbee’s hints to a Canadian diplomat that Obama’s critique ofÂ NAFTAÂ was just campaign rhetoric, or former aideÂ Samantha Power‘s “monster” remark about Hillary Clinton to the Scotsman. Or perhaps we’re witnessing the arrogance that comes from being so close to power. One of his campaign advisers told me recently: “Why should we take the time for foreign media, since there is Obamania around the world?”
Obama is indeed popular in my country and elsewhere in Europe. But Europeans have the same questions about his experience and character that Americans do. Unlike U.S. citizens, we can’t vote in the election; its results, though, will affect our lives, much as it will affect theirs. Surely a man who has said he would talk with U.S. adversaries such as Iranian PresidentÂ Mahmoud AhmadinejadÂ can spend a few moments with journalists from friendlier countries.
The writer is Washington bureau chief of Der Tagesspiegel, a Berlin-based daily newspaper.
ROGER SIMON:Â The optics are all very goodÂ on this trip. I mean, the beginning of this trip isÂ so good, Senator Obama might just want to call off the end and just keep running the videotape.Â He goes into a gym, everybody, all the service people there cheer. He shoots a basket, you know, it goes through the hoop.Â He’s obviously standing there with troops, they seem to be liking him, smiling. They don’t seem to feel that Barack Obama wants to desert them, to leave them in Iraq.Â Â This is exactly what the Obama campaign hoped for, and this was supposed to be the tough part of the trip.Â The meatiest part of the trip in Jordan and Israel may be tough in terms of foreign policy, but the back end of the trip to cheering European crowds will certainly be as good if not better than this. So I think he’s feeling very good right now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Andrea, I want to get ethnic a little bit here —
ANDREA MITCHELL: This is message —
MATTHEWS: Yeah, go ahead, please.
MITCHELL: Let me just say something about the message management.Â Â He didn’t have reporters with him, he didn’t have a press pool, he didn’t do a press conference while he was on the ground in either Afghanistan or Iraq.Â What you’re seeing is not reporters brought in.Â You’re seeing selected pictures taken by the military, questions by the military, andÂ what some would call fake interviews,Â because they’re not interviews from a journalist.Â So, there’s a real press issue here.Â Politically it’s smart as can be.Â ButÂ we’ve not seen a presidential candidate do this, in my recollection, ever before.
When Matthews inquired about the atmospherics of the trip, Mitchell made clear her frustration as a reporter.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about access to the troops, Andrea.Â A lot of African-American faces over there, very happy, delighted faces.Â Is that a representation of the percentage of servicepeople who are African-American, or did they all choose to join someone they like, apparently?Â Â What’s the story?
MITCHELL:Â I can’t really say that.Â Â Being a reporter who was not present in any of those situations,Â I just cannot report on what was edited out, what was, you know, on the sidelines.Â That’s my issue.Â We don’t know what we are seeing.
Good on Andrea. Now, will the rest of the MSM press the Obama campaign to release the outtakes from the war zone?