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This morning I did something I rarely do on Twitter. I wrote what was exactly on my mind (which I guess is the point of twitter). I typed out: “Jake Tapper had the best question at the Obama press conference.” I sat there last night watching the Obama press conference like it was event television. I’m a sucker. Tapper was one of the few reporters who asked a question aimed at getting Obama off the talking points. He asked Obama what benchmarks or milestones or measurements his administration and the public could use to see if the stimulus plan was working. In other words, how would we know if the trillion bucks were gonna cough up is money well spent.
It was a great question.
I pretty much have forgotten Obama’s answer. But I remembered the moment as a typical Tapper moment. He’s not your average political correspondent/hack. Since he left CP years ago, I have read and watched Tapper with amazement at his ability to churn out good copy for Salon, and solid pieces for Nightline and his politics blog. So it was just odd to read today the anonymous carping from the press corps about Tapper.
Rachel Sklar writes in the Daily Beast that Tapper is fast becoming “the new star of the Washington press pack.” She points to Tapper’s now-famous skirmish with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:
That may or may not been Tapper’s big moment. Surely Tapper will have bigger moments and important scoops in the coming months and years. But it was enough to get the anonymous quote roundup on Tapper:
“I think it’s safe to say that he’s calculated, meaning that if he’s being tough, it’s likely because he sat down one day to say, ‘I want to be this administration’s David Gregory,’” said one colleague on the D.C. political circuit. (Note where Gregory ended up.) Others have also compared him to Sam Donaldson, whose scrappy briefing room questioning is still legendary. “[Tapper] works really hard, he’s really smart, and he does have good questions that you just can’t dismiss as showboating,” said another D.C.-based political reporter who has known Tapper for years. And while more than one other person also used the word “showboating,” a briefing room colleague was a little more zen: “It’s too early to judge anyone… And I wouldn’t get too worked up over the press briefings. Judge all of us on the reporting, analysis, and packages.”
I think it’s a little lame of these correspondents to a) insist on anonymity; b) carp on a colleague as ambitious (this just reeks of sour grapes); c) describe Tapper as showboating. These are the same press corps that gave Bush a free ride. These are the same people that hissed at Colbert. What’s so wrong with asking tough questions?