"While Egypt Burns, Obama Parties"

Posted: Jan 31, 2011 11:13 AM
White House press corps veteran Keith Koffler describes his colleagues' cozy shindig with the president over the weekend:

The Washington A-List was out in force Saturday night at the farewell party for senior adviser David Axelrod, with a roster of guests featuring Cabinet secretaries, big shot journos and – President Obama.

As revolution threatened to sweep Egypt and possibly other allies – with the horrifying prospect of Islamism replacing reliable friends – the president was on view partying with the IN crowd.

The skepticism beyond the Beltway about whether Washington is just one big Love-In certainly gets fed by the sight – as conveyed by the press pool report – of reporters like ABC’s Jake Tapper, NBC’s Chuck Todd, National Journal’s Major Garrett, and John Harwood of CNBC and the New York Times emerging from a bash with the president that was held to toast his chief political fixer and leading spinmeister.

I understand why reporters would do this – other than the admittedly pathetic notion that, gosh, it’s fun to party with the president of the United States! It is pretty good for building sources and getting inside dope. But man, it ain’t easy smacking the White House with tough stories all the time if you’re getting invited to their exclusive parties, now is it?

Koffler's dispatch does smack a little bit of jealousy, but he raises some important questions about journalistic integrity, objectivity, and general Beltway clubiness.  As for his suggestion that President Obama was partying at the expense of monitoring and managing the crisis in Egypt, I think he may be overstating that case a bit.  The president did consult with a coterie of world leaders about the turmoil over the weekend, and his administration's measured response to the very complex and combustible situation on the ground has won praise, even from some of its harshest critics.

Also, the festivities in question were a "farewell" in name only for Axelrod.   He's technically leaving the White House to concentrate on mapping out Obama's 2012 re-elect push, a job that will entail spinning the very reporters who were toasting him on Saturday night.