The vaunted fourth estate of American democracy has transformed itself into a bunch of breathless and biologically-pressured thirtyish career women hoping to be noticed by the hot guy who just walked into the room and winked in their direction.
Journalist Carol Marin sounds like any of a number of perplexed women performing yet another Friday night postmortem. Only instead of bemoaning her inability to decode a balding real estate agent who likes to golf and play Madden Football on his Playstation, Carol's wondering where she (and the many like her) went wrong with the President-elect. Because, despite doing everything right, supporting him through thick and thin, praising his every small accomplishment and making excuses for his mistakes, some journalists have started to notice that the President-elect has a system of favorites. Marin cites their devotion,
"As ferociously as we march like villagers with torches against Blagojevich, we have been, in the true spirit of the Bizarro universe, the polar opposite with the president-elect. Deferential, eager to please, prepared to keep a careful distance."
Yet it would appear Obama phones ahead to the ones he plans to call upon at news conferences, and the leftover ladies and gentlemen of the press don't like it.
To young women everywhere this sounds like the familiar script: "I fight and pursue success in my career but then in my personal life I can't get these guys to give me a second date!" (Imagine the desperate whine fueled by a couple of vodka cranberries or appletinis). In fact, like many a single woman who fills her Netflix queue with Meg Ryan flicks and defiantly decides to spend Friday night "in with the girls" and a pan of brownies, journalists like Marin are no longer even raising their hands at press conferences. As she says,
"The press corps, most of us, don't even bother raising our hands any more to ask questions because Obama always has before him a list of correspondents who've been advised they will be called upon that day."
So how can a reporter go from wallflower to waltzing with the President-elect?
I posed the question to the one I've always turned to for relationship insight. Reporters, here's some sage advice from my mom. She's always steered me in the right direction, warning me never to do a guy's laundry and definitely never, ever to give away the milk for free. So, listen up press corps! A version of He's Just Not That into You for heartsick yet hopeful journalists passed over time and again:
A successful relationship is always based on mutual respect. As I examine the Press/Obama love affair, I see that not only is there no respect from Obama for the press, it's quite obvious that the press has no respect for themselves. A press corps with a healthy self-esteem would never allow themselves to be treated in such a demeaning, cavalier manner. Ladies and gentlemen, you are being taken for granted! But all is not lost. Here is our prescription for healing a toxic relationship between a President and the reporters who adore him:
- Start playing hard to get. Don't allow President Obama to get away with a last minute call asking you to be his date to his next news conference. If he really cares for you he will call on you after you raise your hand, not humiliate you by having you wait meekly for him to mispronounce your name.
- Convince him that although the past two years have been fun, it's time to grow up. This man has just been elected President in a time of war and economic turmoil. As his press corps, if you're "ready to take the relationship to the next level," you need to demonstrate to him that while you've had some good times together during the campaign, the Presidency means it's time to get serious. In other words, if you want to be taken seriously by the President, absolutely no more puppy questions.
- Don't make excuses for him. When Obama stumbles -- and he will, all Presidents do -- don't tell your friends, family and the country that he must have been tired, or it was the staff's fault, etc. It won't be true and you'll simply look foolish. You won't do him any favors by never allowing him to fail.
- Talk is cheap. Always remember that no matter what else he is, Obama is a politician. Politicians break their promises. A little skepticism can be a very healthy thing in a relationship, especially when only one party has been doing all the heavy lifting.
- Rediscover your inner journalist. It's time to pull out those goals you wrote to yourself so long ago after journalism school. Remember? You were going after the big story. You were going to speak truth to power, uncover corruption, and follow those leads no matter where they led! Okay, you may have lost your way the past two years, but it's not too late. Lots of us have discovered we've been wasting time in one-sided relationships. All you need is a little courage to break it off. Sure, it'll hurt for a while. But time heals all wounds. And we'll all start respecting you in the morning.
Now that is a message of empowerment! Thanks, mom.Marianne Peracchio's mom is AT contributor Carol Peracchio.