Obama personally called reporter who asked if he was a socialist
(RAW STORY) President Barack Obama personally called a New York Times reporter who asked if he was a “socialist,” according to an item buried in a story published Monday.
In a March interview on Air Force One, New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker asked the president whether critics’ assessments of him as a “socialist” was fair (The question was, “The first six weeks have given people a glimpse of your spending priorities. Are you a socialist as some people have suggested?”). Not long after the plane landed, the Times received a phone call from the commander-in-chief.
“Ninety minutes after the plane landed, the Times received a phone call following up on the interview and making sure the president’s point of view was correctly represented in the paper of record,” Politico’s Mike Calderone writes. “It was Obama on the line.”
Baker says when the Administration feels a story unfairly maligns them, “They’re not at all shy about letting you know.”
In an email to Plumline’s Greg Sargent, Baker defended his question to Obama, arguing “The point is not the label, per se, but the question of whether the times and the solutions under consideration represent some sort of paradigm shift in our national thinking about the role of government in society.”
Also on Monday, Calderone offered a detailed review of the Obama Administration’s “Times strategy,” which involves a great deal more wooing than that of the Bush Administration — whose vice president repeatedly hit the paper for publishing details about the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program.
“Senior Obama officials during the transition posed for Times Sunday Magazine portraits and then opened the doors again with top-level access for another major magazine piece this month on health care,” Calderone writes. “Midlevel officials cooperate for Times profiles detailing their key behind-the-scenes roles.
“Even routine news stories buried deep inside the A-section of the Times often quote high-level sources speaking both on and off the record,” he adds.
The Administration believes the New York daily has an “outsize” influence on journalists, even if its circulation ranks third on the national stage (behind USA Today and the Wall Street Journal).
“The cliché of the Upper West Side liberal getting the NYT and bagels on Sundays is still very much alive,” Democratic strategist Phil Singer told Calderone (Singer was a prominent communications aide in Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign). “But make no mistake: The NYT is still the gold standard for any elected official — Republican or Democrat.”
“A Democratic White House cares much more what The New York Times says,” said Vanity Fair’s Todd S. Purdum told Politico.
A Times political editor defended Baker’s asking the question in March:
The goal of the question was to get at the same issue your sister publication, Newsweek, was addressing with its recent cover story, “We Are All Socialists Now.”
The point is not the label, per se, but the question of whether the times and the solutions under consideration represent some sort of paradigm shift in our national thinking about the role of government in society. In a moment of taxpayer bank bailouts and shifting tax burden proposals and exploding deficits and expansive health care and energy plans, what is the future of American-style capitalism?
We were also interested in exploring how a new president defines his political philosophy, something that has been the subject of intense debate. We wanted to draw him out on all of that and I think his answers, both in the interview itself and the follow-up phone call, were interesting and important.