Over the weekend, I got a link to a story about Malia Obama heading off to Mexico for vacation with 12 friends and 25 Secret Service agents. The story is newsworthy because it implicates taxpayer concerns: Malia is going to a nation that the State Department warns is dangerous, and Americans are footing the bill for the 25 federal employees who are necessary to offset that danger. I know that these Secret Service agents are on the payroll regardless, but feeding and lodging them outside of Washington, D.C. becomes the taxpayers’ burden. (In the same way, Obama’s little basketball jaunt with PM Cameron cost the taxpayers an extra $478,000 over the regular fixed costs in the “taking care of POTUS” budget.)
You’ll notice that I haven’t included the link to the story about Malia Obama’s trip. That’s because, by the time I received the email with the link to the Malia vacation story, the great white-out had begun. As I, and every other sentient web-using being had noticed, the story about Malia Obama was melting away as quickly as the wet Wicked Witch of the West. Those of us trying to find a solid link for the story felt as if we were playing a bizarre version of whack-a-mole. The links would pop up for a second, only to vanish again.
The big question, of course, was why? Why is an apparently properly sourced story vanishing? If it was false, one would expect White House push-back, with the news sources either denying the White House’s arguments or issuing apologies for their error. A vanishing story, however, has been a first. And now the truth has come out. The White House told the news agencies that it’s not fair to report on the kids:
The White House has admitted to telling news agencies to pull stories on Malia Obama visiting the Mexico for spring break, Politico reports.
Kristina Schake, Communications Director to the First Lady, emailed Dylan Byers:
From the beginning of the administration, the White House has asked news outlets not to report on or photograph the Obama children when they are not with their parents and there is no vital news interest. We have reminded outlets of this request in order to protect the privacy and security of these girls.
There are a couple of problems, however, with the White House’s reasoning and the media’s craven collapse. First, as I noted in my opening paragraph, it is newsworthy that the White House has opted to impose on taxpayers the very real and high costs of sending the First Daughter to a nation that’s on the State Department’s own warning list (although the region in which Melia is now traveling is not specifically named in that list).
Second, the Obamas routinely trot out the kids to score political points. The most recent example was the way President Obama used his daughters to justify calling Sandra Fluke to sympathize with her when Rush Limbaugh suggested that spending thousands of dollars on sex aids, and then expecting others to pay for them, suggested that Fluke is not a lady, in the old-fashioned sense of the word. Bristol Palin sums it up nicely:
You don’t know my telephone number, but I hope your staff is busy trying to find it. Ever since you called Sandra Fluke after Rush Limbaugh called her a slut, I figured I might be next. You explained to reporters you called her because you were thinking of your two daughters, Malia and Sasha. After all, you didn’t want them to think it was okay for men to treat them that way:
“One of the things I want them to do as they get older is engage in issues they care about, even ones I may not agree with them on,” you said. “I want them to be able to speak their mind in a civil and thoughtful way. And I don’t want them attacked or called horrible names because they’re being good citizens.”
Most political observers also thought it wasn’t a coincidence that Barack’s and Michelle’s 2011 Christmas card — the last one they’ll be sending out before the election — prominently features their two daughters. This was a campaign photo and it made the daughters a prop.
I don’t mind that Obama is using his daughters politically. Politicians do that all the time, and it’s no use pretending that the Obamas don’t have two daughters out there who make perfect photographic and rhetorical props. What I do mind is that the White House gets to eat its cake and have it. It announces to the press “We get to use the Obama girls when it’s good for us, but you don’t get to use the Obama girls when it’s bad for us.” And the press, meekly, goes away.
Rather than collapsing spinelessly, the press, collectively, should have said, “Sorry, but this story is already out there, so you’ll have to deal with the security consequences of sending your daughter off to a dangerous country. As for future stories, we won’t report on your daughters if you’ll stop using them to score political points. As long as you keep them in the public eye, however, they’re fair game for honest reporting about their activities.”
I guess, though, that my dream of an upright and honest media is as much a fantasy as that melting Wicked Witch of the West.
UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers! The pleasure is all mine.
UPDATE II: Welcome readers from Michael Savage.com. I’m delighted to have you visit.