- - Tuesday, April 5, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Even among the nuzzling press here in Washington, the shine of President Obama has worn off.

Hope and Change has crashed upon the craggy shores of reality.

Gitmo is still open and open for trials — a perfect double backflip rare even by Washington standards.

And then there were Mr. Obama’s worldly-wise assurances that peace would reign and everybody would love us if only we had a sophisticated, multilingual president who had lived abroad, on other continents, with roots in the Muslim world.

Instead, he has shepherded us from feared and loathed to just loathed. And, of course, mocked.

Even reporters, the most ardent foot soldiers of Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign, have felt the sting of his unkept promises.

He accepted an award for his much-bragged-about “openness” behind closed doors. And he barred entry to even a single reporter when he signed a historic treaty to further reduce our nuclear defenses.

White House reporters grumbled privately that even the scorned Bush administration never would have clamped down so tightly on the free press.

Now comes Mr. Obama’s new re-election campaign slogan: “It begins with us.”

In other words, he is not seeking a second term. He wants a do-over.

Understandably.

So, it stands to reason, the press will not be snookered again. Or, at least it won’t be out there shamelessly trying to snooker voters this time around.

Think again. Your trusted mainstream media is every bit as much in the bag for the Obama campaign this time as it was last time.

The most stunning example of this has played out in the two weeks since the release of grisly photographs showing our own troops murdering Afghan citizens and posing for gruesome pictures with the corpses.

The last time America suffered such dishonor committed by a handful of rogue soldiers was in 2004 when disturbing pictures surfaced of soldiers abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

The press was savage. The treatment of the prisoners, reporters insinuated, was a clear indication of beliefs held at the highest levels of the Bush administration.

In the weeks after Abu Ghraib came to light, White House reporters took every opportunity to demand answers from the very top of command.

In the course of just two press briefings and one short “gaggle” on Air Force One with the White House press secretary, reporters asked 97 questions about Abu Ghraib. President George W. Bush was compelled to give two interviews exclusively about the photos, and he was pressed about it during an unrelated event in the Rose Garden. The scandal dominated news coverage for months.

It would be fair to assume, then, that with the release of pictures so much more horrifying, revealing crimes so much more heinous, and against innocent civilians, that the press has been just as outraged and every bit as relentless in demanding answers from the top of command.

In the two weeks since the first photographs were revealed, just once has the White House been pressed publicly about the pictures. And that one time was just a “quick follow” to a question about another matter.

This, mind you, while the White House press corps in 15 briefings and gaggles over the past two weeks has managed to squeeze in eight questions about how that crazy preacher in Florida who burned the Koran is to blame for violence in Afghanistan.

Even when the press had an opportunity to personally grill Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — who, as a senator, called for high-level resignations in the wake of Abu Ghraib — not a single question.

Now that is some change you can believe in.

Charles Hurt’s column appears Wednesdays. He can be reached at charleshurt@live.com.

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