- The Washington Times - Monday, September 28, 2009

WHITE HOUSE OVERLORDS

The Obama administration has clamped down on the public outreach of the Veterans Health Administration, which has seen its share of image-related challenges in recent years. A source familiar with the situation says that life ain’t easy for the federal agency these days.

“The Obama White House is requiring that all press releases from the Veterans Health Administration be cleared by the White House before they are released, which means it may take weeks to get one out. Even the ones that are about basic VA programs and have nothing to do with politics or the budget are delayed,” a source tells Inside the Beltway.

“At the same time, the White House apparently is not making the same requirement of other federal agencies,” the source continues. “That’s what others at other federal agencies say. VA career officials are perplexed about this, as it makes it next to impossible to get information out on basic VA programs in a timely manner. The Obama administration has touted its transparency, but what it really is doing is imposing total control over everything at the VA.”

Wait. Wasn’t it President George W. Bush who was supposed to be so uncooperative and secretive in the public-affairs arena? Doubtless, more to come on this practice.

DNC APES BREITBART

There’s nothing like powerful amateur videos to get public attention, as Andrew Breitbart and his pair of young videographers proved in recent days during ACORN-gate.

The Democratic National Committee has obviously noticed, and is borrowing a page or two from the Breitbart playbook. The DNC has issued a “health reform video challenge” to loyalists, asking them to dream up 30-second, original video clips that make a case for passing the legislation.

“The fight for health insurance reform comes down to a battle over information,” says Natalie Foster, new-media director for Organizing for America, an arm of the DNC. “The messages that regular people put together will make a bigger difference than any false smears or slick ads the other side can dream up.”

Republican strategists should note that the DNC has distilled President Obama’s reform policy to a four-minute video and 10 talking points. The organization is in serious battle mode, inviting aspiring message makers to submit material via YouTube - all rights irrevocably handed over to the Democratic Party. There are no chinks in the armor. Witness these portions of the 17-part rules section for the contest, which ends Oct. 18:

“Prize. One winner will receive the following prize: All or part of the winner’s video may be used in a television advertisement associated with Sponsor’s health reform campaign (approximate retail value: $0).”

“Federal Election Campaign Act Compliance. You hereby represent and warrant that all equipment, materials and facilities used to produce the video are owned by you and were not provided by a corporation, labor union, foreign national or federal contractor. All disposable materials purchased specifically to produce the video will be treated as in-kind contributions to the sponsor.”

OH SAY CAN YOU

And on to video of a different nature. So, are you tired, forlorn or part of some huddled mass somewhere? Several readers have stepped forward with a video link to “The Star-Spangled Banner” as sung by the combined choruses of all four U.S. military academies - plus herald trumpets, color guard, jet fly-over and the genuine, patriotic emotions of those on the sidelines during the 2004 Super Bowl.

Hands over their hearts, former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton are remarkable for their gravitas - and matching suits. The five-year-old footage has not lost its impact; tallying more than 1.5 million views. Check it out here, and keep a hankie handy: www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ETrr-XHBjE.

ANTI-SOCIAL MEDIA

Washington Post, de-Twitter thyself. Or else. So much for snarky comments, personal asides and other fun stuff for Post reporters in the social-media realm. The paper has issued a stringent set of new guidelines for the garrulous.

“When using social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace or Twitter for reporting, we must protect our professional integrity. Washington Post journalists should identify themselves as such. We must be accurate in our reporting and transparent about our intentions when participating,” said Post senior editor Milton Coleman in a staff memo.

“All Washington Post journalists relinquish some of the personal privileges of private citizens. Post journalists must recognize that any content associated with them in an online social network is, for practical purposes, the equivalent of what appears beneath their bylines in the newspaper or on our Web site.”

Disappointed Posties have managing editor Raju Narisetti to blame for their woes, according to Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander. Mr. Narisetti apparently blabbed his personal opinions on health care reform to his Twitter followers - and the rest is history.

POLL DU JOUR

• 38 percent of Americans say the world is headed for an “irreversible catastrophe” if the United Nations fails to deal with global warming.

• 36 percent disagree; 26 percent are not sure.

• 52 percent agree that climate change could pose a danger.

• 47 percent reject the idea that the U.S. is “selfish” for putting economic concerns ahead of global warming.

• 29 percent say we are selfish for putting the economy first; 24 percent are not sure.

Source: A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 adult conducted Sept. 23-24.

Morse code, passenger pigeons, press releases to jharper@washingtontimes .com or 202/636-3085.

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