The president today can afford to ignore mainstream White House reporters to a degree unimaginable just 10 years ago. The Internet and the public’s growing reliance on it for news allow Obama and his press office not merely to make news but to package it, too: If you haven’t seen the Internet TV show West Wing Week, in which the president’s staff chronicles his activities day by day, you’re missing a treat. Not since Nicolae Ceausescu has a world leader spent so much time surrounded by adorable children.
More important, through the Internet the president has access to a universe of fanboys—blogging and tweeting around the clock—who don’t even require marching orders before they double-time it into battle. Bob Woodward can tell you all about them. In late February, the well-known and often idolized Watergate reporter wrote a damaging op-ed in the Post, refuting the president’s careful denial of his own role in bringing on the sequester. Woodward even went on Fox News to drive the point home.
The White House press office issued a limp denial, but it was the fanboys who leapt into action. One of them, a blogger called Josh Marshall, compared Woodward to one of the crackpots who think Obama was born in Africa. Another blogger from Time magazine portrayed him as a befuddled has-been. “Bob Woodward is senile,” said another. Salon magazine’s tweeter insisted: “Bob Woodward has lost it, let’s all stop indulging him.” The blizzard of tweets and posts had the intended effect of burying Woodward’s original accusation. The story was no longer whether the president’s version of events surrounding the sequester was honest or even accurate. The story was, bizarrely, Woodward himself: his character, his politics, his sanity.
Commentary's (excellent) blog is here.
West Wing Week is painful.