Obama: You don't endorse me? You're off the plane!

Jake Turcotte

A lot of talk this morning about Barack Obama's plane and a decision to boot reporters from the New York Post, Dallas Morning News and the Washington Times from traveling on O-Force One.

The campaign says it's due to lack of space.  But many others see something else.  Something more - in the spirit of this Halloween weekend - dastardly. These news outlets all endorsed John McCain.

Leave it to Drudge

In typical Drudge-like form, the headline announcing the expulsion screamed controversy:

"The Big Purge: Skeptical Reporters Tossed Off Obama Plane"

"Despite pleas from top editors of the three newspapers that have covered the campaign for months at extraordinary cost, the Obama campaign says their reporters -- and possibly others -- will have to vacate their coveted seats so more power players can document the final days of Sen. Barack Obama's historic campaign to become the first black American president," writes Drudge.

Option B

To be fair, space on campaign planes can become limited.  Especially when you are up in the polls.

It's not like the Obama campaign isn't trying to be helpful to these newspapers.  Their suggestion?  Get on the campaign bus or even worse -- travel with Joe Biden.

Normally traveling with Biden could be entertaining.  The guy would talk your ears off and say something wonderfully quotable.

But since he's been placed in the equivalent of Al Gore's lockbox, he's no news all-the-time.


Reactions from the newspapers?

The Dallas Morning News recognizes that polls are good and Team Obama doesn't want to upset anything.

"Sen. Obama is sitting on a lead and doesn't want to risk aggressive questions by unbiased political reporters," writes Ryan Rusak.

He notes Obama hasn't held a press conference in more than a month and the interviews he has done are with pretty friendly people:  Jon Stewart, Rachel Maddow and Pulitzer prize winning journalist Mario Lopez.

But they don't necessarily think they're being punished for checking the McCain box.

"But we don't have evidence that the newspaper's endorsement of Sen. McCain had any bearing on the campaign's decision to boot us from the plane," writes Rusak.

Washington Times

As for the Washington Times, they aren't happy with the news.  In fact, they feel like they are a pre-election victim of John McCain's main campaign theme.

"This feels like the journalistic equivalent of redistributing the wealth, we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars covering Senator Obama's campaign, traveling on his plane, and taking our turn in the reporter's pool, only to have our seat given away to someone else in the last days of the campaign," said Washington Times Executive Editor John Solomon.

"I hope the candidate that promises to unite America isn't using a litmus test to determine who gets to cover his campaign," Solomon adds.

Official word

Not so, says the campaign.

"Unfortunately, demand for seats on the plane during this final weekend has far exceeded supply, and because of logistical issues we made the decision not to add a second plane. This means we've had to make hard and unpleasant for all concerned decisions about limiting some news organizations and in some cases not being in a position to offer space to news organizations altogether," Obama senior adviser Anita Dunn said in a written statement.

More friendly media

The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz notes, however, that "room was suddenly made for two magazines that have not been traveling with the Democratic nominee, Essence and Ebony."

No sale

Ed Morrissey over at Hot Air isn't buying the official line from Obama.  He wonders why they didn't do this a month ago.  After all did anyone really think the New York Post or the Washington Times was going to endorse the Democratic nominee?

Had they acted a few weeks ago, they could have made it look like Team Obama wanted to give secondary media outlets a chance.  Now it just looks like vindictiveness, and perhaps even worse.  Obama and his supporters have gotten vicious with reporters who ask questions and do research that put Obama in a bad light, and this adds to the general pattern we’ve seen since the primaries.


The reaction from the McCain camp isn't surprising.  But it should be noted that they've booted people too.  Maureen Dowd from the New York Times and Time magazine's Joe Klein were booted earlier this year.

"The least transparent and the least vetted candidate in history is now the least accessible - not surprising," said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.


Calling Obama a "sore winner," the Wonkette neatly sums up the predicament these newspapers face in the last few days.

Now they will all have to fly commercial in order to get to various events in the last stretch of the campaign. This is the journalistic equivalent of having to walk through the town square in a pom-pom hat and a thong.
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