When dealing with the White House press corps, the Obama administration is unable to concisely and informatively react to so-called scandals. Whether its the continuing Benghazi investigation, the Justice Department's tapping of AP phones, or the sensational revelations that conservative applications for tax-exempt status were given higher scrutiny and delay than other applications at the IRS, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney is at a loss.

Why can’t the White House answer one question from the White House press corps without stammering a passable answer?

Jay Carney and his press team inside the White House have a reputation for intelligence and professionalism. Yet this week, they couldn't adequately address the three scandals.

There are several possible reasons. However, the most likely is this: the White House has never been challenged by the news media with such seriousness and ferocity. In short, they are not used to it. A difficult media is new to this White House.

In the past when the White House was confronted with "uncomfortable" questions about a problem with an Obama policy or program, it typically received one-off questions from the news media. As a result, the press office has been able to waive them off as issues inherited from President George W. Bush, an effort by Republicans to besmirch President Obama, or simply not issues worth commenting on.

The news media is not allowing the difficult issues to go away, and the White House is experiencing real difficulty.

Consequently, from Jay Carney’s position, the irritating issues simply were forgotten. But this time the news media is not allowing the difficult issues to go away, and the White House is experiencing real difficulty.

I'm reminded of two golfers, Jim and Ed, who were once in a match play tournament. Each time Jim's ball got close to the hole, Ed would nicely tell him to pick it up; and Ed would award Jim the hole. Ed did this often during the first 17 holes of the tournament.

On the final hole, however, Jim found himself staring at a five-foot putt and he expected Ed to once again award him the hole. But this time Ed told him to putt the ball for victory. And Jim missed.

Who could blame him? Jim hadn't been challenged all day. He had yet to take a five-foot putt. Ed's strategy paid off.

In this scenario, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney is Jim. He's never been under any serious pressure since he first stood behind the podium in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. He's never had to drain a five-foot putt.

It's not as though such tests were not present for the White House in the first term — they were. However, the news media never made them answer the tough questions.

In each case — the “Fast and Furious” gun-walking operation, the unconstitutional recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, the General Services Administration spending nearly $1 million in Las Vegas on a conference, leaking the identity of U.S. Navy Seal Team 6, and of course, Solyndra — the news media never seriously challenged The White House.

This last week, however, the news media began asking very difficult questions about important matters affecting the Obama administration. The news media demanded the White House press office make the five-foot putt — and they couldn't do it.

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Jeffrey Taylor
About The Author Jeffrey Taylor
Jeffrey L. Taylor is managing partner of the Washington, DC-based government relations firm USGRI.com. He served on Capitol Hill in several capacities and in the administration of President George H.W. Bush. Follow him on Twitter at @USGRI_Lobbyist.




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