Major Garrett, CBS News’s chief White House correspondent, and I have something in common.
We both worked for the same person, although at different times.
How’s that for name-dropping?
Garrett went to work for the Amarillo Globe-News back in the old days. The then-editor of the paper, Garet von Netzer, hired him; von Netzer later would become publisher of the paper and then he hired yours truly, although long after Garrett had moved on.
Having laid down that useless predicate, let me now say that Major Garrett asked a patently offensive question of President Obama, to which the president responded appropriately.
The question involved four Americans held captive in Iran and Garrett wondered how the president could be “content” that they’re still being held on trumped-up charges while he is “celebrating” the nuclear deal worked out with the Islamic Republic.
Obama took offense at the tone of the question. He scolded Garrett, saying he “should know better” than to ask a question that contained “nonsense.”
The president said he isn’t “content” over the Americans’ continued captivity and said he and his team are “working diligently” to secure freedom for the individuals.
What irks me about the question and its aftermath is how Major Garrett insisted it wasn’t intended to ruffle the president. He didn’t apologize and he said it was not asked to call attention to himself.
May I be blunt? That’s pure baloney.
That’s how it goes among the White House press corps. It’s always about getting in a question intended to call attention to the inquiry and to the person making it. Such gamesmanship has been going on for, oh, since the beginning of these televised events dating back to the days when President Kennedy introduced them to the public and turned them into some form of entertainment.
CBS’s Dan Rather famously sought to get under President Nixon’s skin during the Watergate scandal; ABC’s Sam Donaldson did the same thing to President Reagan over the course of many years; Fox’s Ed Henry does the same thing today with President Obama.
Well, now Henry and others have company in the “gotcha” hall of fame.
Major Garrett asked an appropriate question. He just inserted a certain word — “content” — that framed it in a way that got Barack Obama’s dander up.
I would bet that was his intent all along.