Thursday, October 24, 2013

Not so Quiet on the Rose-Garden Front


Mr. President, I think that war on journalists may not be going so well...

Or maybe "war" isn't quite the right term. Oval-Office Contingency Operations?

More on the climate of fear that has tragically overtaken the White House press corps in the most closed, control freak administration David Sanger has ever covered*: How bad the situation is is made clear by yesterday's story by Mark Mazzetti, Robert Worth, and Michael Gordon on the evolution of Obama's Syria policy:
A close examination of how the Obama administration finds itself at this point — based on interviews with dozens of current and former members of the administration, foreign diplomats and Congressional officials — starts with a deeply ambivalent president who has presided over a far more contentious debate among his advisers than previously known. Those advisers reflected Mr. Obama’s own conflicting impulses on how to respond to the forces unleashed by the Arab Spring: whether to side with those battling authoritarian governments or to avoid the risk of becoming enmeshed in another messy war in the Middle East.
Some of Mr. Obama’s defenders argue
...said Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser
But others are far more critical, saying...
As one former senior White House official put it...
American intelligence agencies gave regular briefings at the White House and the State Department concluding that Mr. Assad’s days were numbered...
Some in the administration worried about making such a declaration in the absence of a strategy to help make it happen. But those voices were rare.
But from the beginning, Mr. Obama made it clear to his aides that he did not envision an American military intervention.
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave a slide-show presentation in the Situation Room in early 2012 that helped take any military option off the table.
The president’s view, according to one administration official who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing debates about classified operations, seemed to be that “we’d be taking a lot of risk without a clear plan.”
And that's just the beginning; it goes on, at just incredible length, including references to secret documents the writers have read, Woodward-eye descriptions of body language, etc.  Oops, maybe Sanger's problem is he just realized he's not going to be Bob Woodward. Then again there are worse fates.

*Incidentally, how many administrations has he covered? Discounting his time as NYT's Tokyo bureau chief, when his beat included the fun-loving and spontaneous Chinese and North Korean governments, exactly three: Clinton for a little over a year, from when he was named White House correspondent in late 1999; Bush, under whom he was promoted to chief Washington correspondent in 2006; and Obama, the subject of both his published books. Given that the Clinton White House was an open emotional wound, with characters like George Stephanopoulos virtually representing themselves in public as victims of domestic abuse, and the Bush White House practically a journalist's nonstop house party, where they passed out pre-written stories like cocktails and hors d'oeuvres (never mind that the stories were trivial, misleading, or downright false), I guess it was inevitable that the Obama administration would seem a little tight-lipped in comparison.

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