CBS's Bill Plante and the White House press corps' double standard

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

This is sort of a P.S. to the recent look at how, "Right on cue, the White House press awakens from its Bush slumber."

NPR did a straight-ahead report about all those suddenly skeptical and aggressively inquisitive reporters showing up to work at the Obama White House. (i.e. NPR didn't see the irony.) In particular, CBS's Bill Plante was suddenly adamant about the media's civic role:

The whole idea of an independent press as guaranteed by the First Amendment is that it would serve as a watchdog and check on the power of government.

Well, no argument there, Bill. But it sure would've been nice if Plante and company had mouthed the same watchdog declarations during George Bush's time in town. Instead, what was Plante's take on the GOP press operation, which immediately began limiting all kinds of information from the press and generally stiff-arming journalists on the White House beat?

Back then Plante told the American Journalism Review he was "fascinated by how well they've been able to manage" the press. Not concern or scorn, but fascination. That sounds an awful lot like admiration to me.

Going back further to Bill Clinton's White House arrival in 1993, why did Plante think the press was so tough on the new kids. Why did the new Democratic administration get hit with so much bad press? Here's how Plante saw it:

There was too much going on and too much of what was going on was controversial. There was...endless meetings, late night pizza, people wearing jeans. You name it. So there was no shortage of stories out of here in January, February, March of 1993."

To recap, Democrat Clinton got early bad press because, according to Plante, there was "too much going on" in his White House. (People were wearing jeans and eating pizza!). Republican Bush got early good press and Plante was "fascinated" by how the GOP managed the press. But now Democrat Obama suddenly needs to be held accountable by the watchdog press.

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