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Of all the scandals, mini-scandals, and scandals-in-waiting circling the White House these days, the one that should set off the most alarms in the Oval Office is the AP phone records affair. It’s not so much its relative placement on the egregious overreach scale; it’s the fact that it involves the mainstream press. This is an assemblage of men and women that has been vital to the political success of the President. This is the group that collectively decides whether an event, or series of events, constitutes a scandal or, for that matter, even a story.
When scandal engulfs an administration, it’s generally not about one isolated occurrence, but rather a confluence of events that forms a narrative and paints an unsavory picture. Until now, that dynamic has been lacking in the coverage—or lack thereof—of stories such as Benghazi, Fast and Furious, and the IRS. Now, however, this administration has provided a linchpin to the scandal process with its peek into AP’s virtual Rolodex. The press is now angry, and that’s not a good thing for Obama, Inc.
No group of professionals is more thin-skinned and protective of its turf than the press. Just ask Tom Brokaw, whose recent ruminations about the appropriateness of his brethren’s participation in the White House Correspondents’ Dinner unleashed a series of “lighten up, Tom” attacks from media folks. Additionally, there’s a lot of water that has been held back by the protective dam built by much of the mainstream press, and there’s no telling how much damage might be done if the dam bursts. There’s a cracking sound coming from upriver, and it might be time to start placing sandbags around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.