The White House Press Briefing Is Utterly Useless

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 23 2013 8:27 AM

Opening Act: Carney Delenda Est

For Jay Carney, no news is good news.

Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

RALEIGH, N.C.—The unstoppable rise of the 2016 piece continues—in the summer of 2013!—with Scott Conroy checking the buzz for Paul Ryan in Iowa. It's faint, and not just because it's the summer of 2013. A Democratic friend put it to me this way: The 2012 campaign was for Ryan what a knee injury would be for a star football player. After rehab, the player will be back in the game. But he'll never play the same. Ryan will never fully regain the "real man of truth and genius" image of 2009-2011.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Reid Cherlin makes a solid case for one of my pet causes: ending the made-for-TV, largely useless current format of the White House press briefing.

Even as the briefing dawdles on to less weighty matters (“About the congressional picnic that has been postponed, what was behind that?”), the press secretary remains duty-bound not to say anything specific or interesting. If there were a Hippocratic Oath for the position, it might begin: “First, make no news.” The goal is to make it through without inciting an international crisis or stepping on the president’s cheery message of the day, and then to return to the office and get down to actual business, including figuring out which of the administration’s three favored outlets—The New York Times, AP, and Mike Allen’s “Playbook”—will get advance word of the Egypt decision when it finally gets made. Generally, this is a better way to do things: The article that results tends to be more thorough and nuanced, which is good for both the White House and the writer.

Alex Burns profiles the Republican donor culture post-Bob Perry. You might remember Perry as the "Texas home-builder" who poured Croesus-like money into his causes. The bad news for liberals: The man behind the Swift Boat ads was all set to throw money at immigration reform.

Bailey, who serves as a councilman in the town of Nassau Bay, where Perry lived, said the businessman confided that Friday that he planned to work the phones on the following Monday to drum up support for a comprehensive immigration bill among other CEOs. Perry died in his sleep over the weekend.
“This was a top issue of his. To the very end, he talked at length about it. Not very often does Mr. Perry get on the phone and start calling CEOs, but he was willing to do that,” said Bailey, who heads the group Texas Immigration Solution. “I truly believe it would be a different ballgame if Bob Perry were still living.”

And Jonathan Chait writes beautifully about being a Detroit suburbanite during the time of decline, as does Ron Fournier.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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