The State Department press corps had boarded and had been logged in - both by the crew and on their social nets - when the secretary of state's motorcade drove up. Hillary Clinton was about to board for her first official tour in Africa as secretary of state. It was very exciting, but her press corps, all logged into Twitter, were disconcerted. There was another motorcade on the tarmac. Another plane was preparing for takeoff. The State Department press corps did not like it, and they said so on Twitter and other social nets.
What's he doing, they queried. He's stealing her light! There was a tweetstorm of monumental proportions.
The "he" in this case was the secretary of state's husband and the former president who was off on a mission to rescue two journalists captured and imprisoned in North Korea.
They were employed by his former vice president, and the former POTUS
went at his behest with the approval of the new president and his
secretary of state, about to be bound to Africa. She knew all about it,
of course. For the sake of convenience and perhaps to some degree for
the sake of last minute preps and briefings, they had left their
Georgetown residence together and arrived at Andrews for their separate
missions. It was well-coordinated as such events go.
The DOS press
corps, however did not see it that way that particular morning. They circled their wagons around the secretary of state, whose coverage
was their job, and expressed their disgruntlement on Twitter where I was
following several of the younger members of the corps.
loyalty to and protectiveness of Hillary was plain to see. No one should
be stealing her steam, not even her husband, a two-term former POTUS.
This was her big trip. They were there to make it visible to the world.
the current SOS, Rex Tillerson, missed class that day and in the days
following Hillary Clinton's flu and subsequent fainting spell and
concussion, or even her bouts with spring allergies, or he would know
the fealty and concern with which the DOS press corps treats coverage of
the secretary of state.
Instead of giving them a fair chance to
get to know him, bond, and explain and defend him in the press, he has
opted to treat them as the enemy and barred them from the plane on his first official excursion to Asia. N.B. Asia was also Hillary's first official trip as SOS.
decision is not only folly but also speaks to the general attitude of
this administration toward the press. Without giving them the chance to
get to know him and perhaps develop a sympathy toward him and his work,
he has chosen to banish them as inimical - the general stance of the
administration - and a dangerous and foolhardy one.
Department press corps tends to be very open, supportive, and defensive
of the secretary of state. Tillerson, on his first official journey, has
chosen to erect a wall, another symbol of this new administration,
between him and those whose function is to cover his tenure.
has decided to pare down. He will not be using the Big Blue Bird - so
familiar via Condi, Hillary, and John Kerry. He will use a smaller
plane. N.B. that this does not necessarily represent any reduction of
expenses since the news bureaus pay for the press transportation. It
represents, instead, a slap in the face to the free press.
Trump administration and Tillerson as part of it have chosen to treat
the press as the enemy. They could have caught more flies with honey,
but never mind. As Roseanne Rosannadanna might have said, Mr. Tillerson,
you sound like a real attractive guy. Truth is, when you have a name that sounds like it came out of an
"Archie" comic book, you really needed all the help you could have
gotten, and beggars cannot be choosers.