The Anonymous Obama Official Fight: Not AP Hypocrisy ... White House Arrogance?

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs pushes back on reporters' calls for openness.

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By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Audacity's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, was acting in the finest Chicago tradition when he suggested that bad things might happen to the Associated Press reporter who covers President Obama if she continues to criticize White House aides who hide off-the-record.

Gibbs told the morning paper that he found it "interesting" that Jennifer Loven, the president of the White House Correspondents Association, complained about the background briefings. After all, he said, the AP had relied on unnamed sources when breaking the news that Sonia Sotomayor was Audacity's nominee to the Supreme Court.

"I'm not sure today is the day I'd make that argument," Gibbs said.

Nice business you got here, little lady. It would be a shame if anything were to happen to it.

Gibbs is a pro. He knows the difference between Jennifer Loven, AP reporter, trying to get a scoop, and Jennifer Loven, the elected representative of all the White House correspondents, arguing for more openness. She was not being a hypocrite.

Here, for the record, is what Loven said on behalf of her colleagues: "We protest in the strongest terms the Obama administration's frequent use of briefings done on a background basis ... especially when the same officials ... appear ubiquitously on television shows with similar information."

In this case, the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz reported, one of the anonymous briefers—adviser David Axelrod—took the grand tour of Cable TV talk fests "within hours," hitting Fox, CNN, MSNBC, and PBS.

This is an ongoing fight that spans administrations. White House aides like the protection afforded by anonymity, in case they say something wrong or controversial. And, to be sure, some reporters like the arrangement. It makes them look important to the bosses back home to write that a "senior administration official" gave them confidential information. Gibbs will no doubt file the protest and go on with business as usual, like his predecessors.

So why the brushback?

It's been an arduous 120 days. No doubt the press secretary is a little frazzled and weary and maybe feeling put-upon.

The alternative isn't pretty. It couldn't be a sign of arrogance, could it? 

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