BuzzFeed‘s Michael Hastings‘ new eBook is out today on President Obama‘s presidential campaign. It’s called, Panic 2012: The Sublime and Terrifying Inside Story of Obama’s Final Campaign. In it is a thorny anecdote about a WSJ reporter talking to the President via an Obama hand puppet at an off-the record cocktail party.
The reporter, who goes unnamed in the book, is Laura Meckler from WSJ.
To be sure, Hastings went into great detail about what Meckler did at the party, which involved approaching Obama with a sock puppet, speaking in a squeaky voice and asking him for an interview. Answering for Obama, she had him say yes to her request.
The rules for the evening, according to a letter sent to all members of the White House Press Corps, were that no official or aide could be quoted. Which meant journalists like Meckler were fair game.
“You know that was off the record last night, right?” Meckler questioned Hastings the following day. Hastings, hilariously, wrote in the eBook, “Please, I thought, don’t let this be a journalist talking to me.” She repeated her question. “This perplexed me,” he continued. “Was it a reporter’s job to monitor me like the East German Stasi?” Hastings eventually responded to Meckler, saying, “Everything was off the record. Except what you did.” Ouch.
The chapter that features the scene is Chapter 6 and is called, “Potus High.”
There’s also a funny scene about the sometimes prickly Hastings having a “preemptive” dislike for journalists like FNC’s Ed Henry…
“As I probably already mentioned, I’d made a preemptive decision to dislike Ed Henry and his colleagues, admittedly not the most open-minded position to take. The White House press corps’ reputation of unseemly coziness with the people they covered was well deserved, and I often had difficulties with organized groups of journalists .”
At a conference in Chicago, Henry told Hastings that a dumbass conversation with a White House official concerning soccer playoffs was off the record. Hastings didn’t understand who died and made Henry the decider of what was on or off record. He has since softened toward Henry, but it’s hard to tell whether Hastings is engaging in the very ass-kissing and coziness he seems to detest. He eventually calls Henry a “swell guy.” After all, he did support BuzzFeed getting on the press plane.
Earlier in Chapter 6, Hastings refers to the White House press corps as the “top 1 percent of the nation’s dorkocracy” so maybe he can be forgiven for the above suckup.
Note to readers: We have no idea what the exact sock puppet looked like, so we found the one used here as a generic example.