Cintra Wilson at the White House

Cintra Wilson at the White House

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or, Why we don't trust the press anymore

Cintra spent some time in the WH press corps, including the flare up regarding the Karl Rove/Plamegate corruption investigation. She has a really good investigation in a current Salon

In the last few years, the press has lost all sense of its own mojo. Things bottomed out after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, when any aggressive grilling of the administration branded reporters as unpatriotic, which potentially alienated their audiences. The high emotion surrounding 9/11 and the War on Terror (or the new, improved Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism, which the Beltway kids snarkily refer to as G-SAVE) have made them very useful hostage babies for the administration cowboys to shield themselves with during shootouts with the press. Somehow, aggressive questioning of the White House got spun as a heretical insult to slaughtered American innocents. It was so demoralizing that after a while the press succumbed en masse to what I call the Potomac dinge: passive cooperation in one's own degradation — the deranged, unconscious complicity that is found in victims of ritual abuse.

The dynamic felt vacuous, frustrated and unhealthy. McClellan infantalizes the press corps — apart from token gestures of professional camaraderie and assertions of respect (he tells them he respects them a lot, he returns their phone calls after 7 p.m., and is friendly to everyone at the annual Christmas parties), the corps are not trusted or treated like adults, and they passively accept this. McClellan's operative personality is a patronizing hybrid of nursery school teacher and Hal the supercomputer from "2001: A Space Odyssey"; his tone suggests your persistence in asking these awful questions means that you are crabby and need a nap. If somebody gets too excited and badgers McClellan for clarity, they are shut down with a withering blast of Daddy/Authority-speak, the subtext of which is always the same: Your question is so appalling and immature that I cannot possibly dignify it with a response. You should be very ashamed of yourself. I suggest you lie down and forget about this Dave. Beep. Dave. Beep.

Helen Thomas is standing up for us:

A working journalist for 62 years, Ms. Thomas has sat in front of every president since John F. Kennedy. She is the only member of the press corps who has the power and freedom to say what she believes about the bigger picture, on the record. Years have not diminished her laser sharpness. Thomas is so candid, direct and honest that listening to her is as jarringly refreshing as sitting under a cold waterfall, after a few days in the corps.

"Reporters have not done their job," Thomas said. "They've given [Bush] a free pass and they've let the people down. They haven't been watchdogs, but lapdogs.

"This is the most complacent and complicit media I've ever seen," Helen Thomas, the most senior member of the White House press corps, told me in an interview at her office at Hearst.

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