Scott McClellan: The White House Press Briefing is Obsolete

By Matthew Yglesias

Asked by TNR to offer some advice to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, former Press Secretary Scott McClellan makes the provocative suggestion that the whole briefing ritual is passe:

My view is that the press-briefing model that is used now is kind of outdated. It ought to be more along the lines of the Pentagon briefing model, where you’re bringing in on a regular basis — maybe even two to three times a week — key officials from the White House or Cabinet secretaries to participate in these briefings and help educate the press and the public.

I agree with that. In terms of the basic briefing material, this could just as easily be emailed out to everyone on the press list. Meanwhile, the Q&A; sessions that exist now are useless as a source of actual information. Reporters ask questions that they know perfectly well won’t be answered, and then the press secretary does his best to dodge him. Nine days out of ten, the result is a not-very-amusing spectacle for mid-day C-SPAN viewers. If the world is lucky, the Press Secretary commits some kind of gaffe. But nothing real is ever learned. McClellan’s idea, by contrast, holds some promise. The White House could bring out whoever they wanted. But the expectation would be clear — you brought these people out to talk about something in particular, and they’re really expected to talk about it.