I’ve watched footage of the White House press corps engaging with press secretary Robert Gibbs on the Obama about-face on a torture investigation several times now. Sam Stein has a good recounting of it at the Huffington Post:
The mood was set even before White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs came to the podium to talk about the president’s remarks. “There does seem to be a little bit of a reaction to how this was received on the left,” said Chuck Todd, White House correspondent for NBC. “Frankly this feels like a political food fight now. Vice President Cheney on one side, President Obama on the other. The hard left, the hard right, fighting over this in the blogosphere. When he talks about – he fears the politicization – that may be too late.”
Chuck Todd, who for my money is a splendid political analyst but yesterday was plainly having a bad day, was not the only questioner along these lines. As usual, the press corps quickly descended into journalistic group think and framed the issue in binary terms: red-blue, liberal-conservative, Democrat-Republican. Behind every emerging issue, they see a political game in which one party seeks the upper hand over another. But not every issue fits this pattern, and the torture issue least of all, as John McCain taught us during the last presidential election. The White House press corps wasn’t listening.