By Dan Thomasson, Scripps News service
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Every president tries to manage the press, some have had limited success, but no one has been quite as proficient as Barack Obama, who in his first months has done a masterful job of keeping the Fourth Estate, if it even exists these days, off balance and frustrated.
Not since the earliest days of John F. Kennedy’s administration has a chief executive been so successful in manipulating those who report on every machinations of the West Wing. Actually, Barack Obama’s keen understanding of how to maneuver through the minefield of 24-hour journalism compares with that of Franklin Roosevelt who so charmed a much smaller White House press corps that it never revealed he was crippled, either photographically or in print.
One need only look at his last press conference — his first in daylight — to validate that assessment. With the few hardened veterans who remain watching opened mouthed in amazement, Obama set up a scene that probably wouldn’t have been possible “back in the day.” He had arranged for a blogger from the Internet’s Huffington Post to get a temporary press pass, told him what he wanted asked (a question from an Iranian citizen about his stance on that country’s election protests) and then called on the person as though the whole thing were impromptu. Planted questions are rare but planted questioners are unheard of. Later correspondents went after press spokesman Robert Gibbs in what was described as a “food fight” over the incident at his regular daily briefing.