Obama tries to have it both ways with media

Press banned from photographing Sasha and Malia at the White House

A free press is all well and good, but not when it comes to the children of President Barack Obama, who has introduced unprecedented rules about which pictures we see of Sasha, eight, and Malia, 10, and which ones we don't.

It was several weeks ago, for instance, when photographers on the White House grounds captured the President waving extravagantly at Sasha standing on the Truman Balcony. Great pictures, to be sure, but the press office instantly requested that news agencies not distribute them.

The Obamas are confronting the same dilemma that faced many first families before them. Nothing endears a nation to its leader more than family snapshots. Even Abraham Lincoln acquiesced to a portrait with his son Tad, eight, at a small table. Few photographs are more beloved than the one of JFK Jr and Caroline playing in the Oval Office. On the other hand, the President and the First Lady want to protect the girls from prying paparazzi.

Thus, all credentialed photographers have been told that the girls are fair game only when they are at formal events. Otherwise, prying lenses should stay away, even when they are on the White House grounds.

To reduce the market for paparazzi shots, the White House puts out photos taken by its own photographer. But these are posted only in low resolution. Editors who want to use them have to ask for a high resolution version and it is up to spokesman Robert Gibbs to grant or deny those requests.

If Mr Obama wants to protect the children from being exploited by a voracious modern-day media, he may find himself treading close to being accused of exploiting them himself, with such a controlled drip-drip of images designed to extract maximum political advantage at the lowest parental cost.

"He's going to try to have it both ways until and unless people start to question his value system and his sincerity in playing that role," notes Gerald Shuster, a political communications expert at the University of Pittsburgh.

The girls, meanwhile, may be discovering the downside of having to stay clear of the paparazzi, having to think twice, for example, before venturing even as far as their climbing frame.

The President whose name is attached to the Truman balcony brought his daughter to Washington, but Margaret Truman loathed the bubble-life she found herself living thanks to her father, Harry, and famously called the executive mansion the Great White Jail.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence