Between the confirmation hearings of done war architect John Brennan and the recent release of the Department of Justice white letter vaguely laying out the supposed legal basis for the targeted assassination of American citizens suspected of terrorism, the Obama administration has, this month, faced more sustained and vocal criticism of its anti-terror and civil liberties record than ever before. Arguments leftists and civil libertarians have been making for years are finally getting something of an airing in the mainstream press. You’d think the conservative press, united in its ferocious opposition to nearly everything Obama does, would be gleeful. They aren’t, really.
Last week, Conor Friedersdorf answered the common conservative complaint that the media are “too easy” on Barack Obama, The claim does have merit. Most of the political press has a sycophantic relationship to power. The White House press corps do regularly beat up on the press secretary (it is his job to be berated theatrically by people he is lying to), but reporters usually treat the president and most of his cabinet deferentially. The president prefers the one-on-one interview to the press conference. He usually chooses friendly interviewees, which is easy, because most successful American political journalists naturally default to a friendly posture when one-on-one with the president, out of “respect” for the office.