From NBC's Chuck Todd
Obviously, I'm one of the newbies here in the White House press corps, so maybe I'm unfamiliar with the ways of how this place works. I have to say, nothing is more frustrating than covering an actual event here at the White House if you at all believe in anything remotely having to do with the First Amendment.
For instance, today, the president gave a speech in the East Room to the business council, an audience of dozens of CEOs and major business leaders in America. As per usual, we're allowed to watch the event behind a ropeline. Ok, standard procedure for any event for any candidate, let alone a president. But unlike public events, here at the White House, when the event ends, we get no access to the audience unless the audience happens to amble up to the ropeline and chat with the press.
Today, it was so bad that we were kept behind closed doors so that these CEOs and other business leaders could leave without accidentally mingling with us poor press peons. Once the CEOs were clear and escorted downstairs, then we were let out of our East Room pen. And it's not like we could rush over to the east side of the White House and find anyone left to interview about their role on this business council. By the time, a member of the press leaves out the one exit they can come in and out of, those guys and gals would be history. I'm sure most of them had cars at the ready to quickly get them to their next meeting.
When asked about why we were kept from mingling with the CEOs, the White House press office said it was simply a crowd issue, they didn't want us and the CEOs to be bumping into each other. Yes, there's a possibility that we could hold each other up from moving, creating some hallway gridlock. But we're all grown-ups and it's not like we're a crowd of thousands or even hundreds.
Seriously, is this the picture the White House wants? CEOs who come to the people's house and then get rushed out so they don't have to deal with press questions?
This beat has a lot of limitations; security takes precedent over access to much of the inner-workings of this place and it's understandable in many instances. But public events like the one the president held today ought to allow the press a tad more access to these guests who are apparently involved in some of the people's business of the day. Just because a previous admin has "always done it this way" doesn't mean it's the way things should continue to be done.
Message control is something every White House wants but sometimes when a White House attempts to control a message too much, they can irritate the press to the point that we all stop even paying attention to their message of the day. Just ask the previous occupant.
*** UPDATE, RESPONSE TO COMMENTORS: "This isn't about us not having access, this is about ANYONE having access... if it's NOT us, it's the public!...Beat us up all you want, but this isn't about us whining, it's about us not even being able to do the job you want us to do and that is be the people's questioner here. But, of course, having a respectable debate on this issue with some is impossible. The irony, of course, is that many of you would be just as upset about the lack of access as I am if the occupant of the White House were someone else.