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Monday, July 16, 2012

White House Common Message To Media: 'Barack Obama Does Not Approve This Message', Change It

By Susan Duclos

.....The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve.....----- Barack Obama, White House Website

A rare insight and affirmation of what many know but is not spoken about, from the New York Times, journalist must agree to change their written articles to appease the Great Obama and co.

The quotations come back redacted, stripped of colorful metaphors, colloquial language and anything even mildly provocative.

They are sent by e-mail from the Obama headquarters in Chicago to reporters who have interviewed campaign officials under one major condition: the press office has veto power over what statements can be quoted and attributed by name. 

Most reporters, desperate to pick the brains of the president’s top strategists, grudgingly agree. After the interviews, they review their notes, check their tape recorders and send in the juiciest sound bites for review. 

The verdict from the campaign — an operation that prides itself on staying consistently on script — is often no, Barack Obama does not approve this message.

If reporters want access, they have to agree to give final editing power over quoted statements.

An example:

Jim Messina, the Obama campaign manager, can be foul-mouthed. But readers would not know it because he deletes the curse words before approving his quotes. Brevity is not a strong suit of David Plouffe, a senior White House adviser. So he tightens up his sentences before giving them the O.K. 

Is it an actual quote if it changed to tone it down after it is said but before it is reported?

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.  We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.--- Barack Obama, White House Website

This is not limited to just Barack Obama's White House or his campaign, because other politicians and candidates often require the same type of approval, including Mitt Romney with comments from his five sons, but it is more prevalent in the Obama administration.

Under President Obama, the insistence on blanket anonymity has grown to new levels. 

The White House’s latest innovation is a variation of the background briefing called the “deep-background briefing,” which it holds for groups of reporters, sometimes several dozen at a time. Reporters may paraphrase what senior administration officials say, but they are forbidden to put anything in quotation marks or identify the speakers. 

The White House held such a briefing after the Supreme Court’s health care ruling last month with officials including Mr. Plouffe, Mr. Carney and Dan Pfeiffer, the communications director. But when reporters asked to quote part of the conversation, even anonymously, they were told no. Even the spokesmen were off limits.

It is egregious for anyone to control the news, but more so when it is the office of the presidency because politicians, candidates  have limited power but the presidency, the White House, is the most powerful office in the country and as such it should be as transparent as possible as long as it does not endanger national security.

Barack Obama, Press Release, August 15, 2007 - Obama Pledges Most Transparent and Accountable Administration in History