Its a time-honored tradition,starting way before President Obama took office. Politicians break bad or embarrassing news (for them) late on a Friday afternoon or even better on a Saturday Night. The hope is the story will get very little play from reporters on their way home from a tough week, or from the weekend shift. The hope is that the Sunday News shows have already been booked to cover other topics and by Monday it will be old news.
For example when Director of Homeland Security announced that the President was going to grant amnesty to Illegal Aliens it was a Friday Afternoon, when he raised his 10-year budget deficit projection from $7.1 to $9 Trillion that too was on a Friday Afternoon.
Last Friday, the News Dump was the announcement that the terror trial of 9-11 planner KSM was being moved to a civilian court in the Big Apple. Unfortunately for the POTUS, the Friday News Dump doesn’t always work. Karl Rove says its because the President refuses to leave “Campaign Mode:”
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By KARL ROVE
Every modern White House has put out news on contentious issues late on Friday in the hope that doing so will bury it, or reduce the amount of critical scrutiny it would otherwise receive. What is unusual is the degree to which this White House has relied on this tactic.
On Friday, Jan. 30, President Obama revoked the ban on giving taxpayer dollars to international groups that promote or perform abortions abroad. The president released his executive orders on detainee interrogations, closure of the Guantanamo prison, and new ethics rules during the previous week, his first in office.
On Friday, Feb. 27, Mr. Obama announced he would end U.S. combat activities in Iraq in 18 months. This was a much longer combat presence than his antiwar base wanted.
On Friday, April 17, Mr. Obama lifted some limits on the use of federal funds for the creation and subsequent destruction of human embryos for stem-cell research. The move won applause from some research advocates but also disappointed many “scientists who had expected a more liberal policy,” according to the New York Times.
On Friday, May 15, Mr. Obama announced he would keep George W. Bush’s military tribunals to try terrorist detainees, angering civil libertarians and antiwar activists in the Democratic Party’s left wing who thought the administration would dismantle the entire Bush antiterror structure.
On Friday, Sept. 15, Mr. Obama admitted that it was unlikely he’d meet his own deadline of closing the Guantanamo detention facility in his first year in office, again angering left-wing supporters and demonstrating that exuberant promises made on the campaign trail and during his first days in office were ill-considered and naïve.
On Friday, Oct. 30, Mr. Obama delivered a double dose of late-breaking news. To respond to increasing criticism of the stimulus’s failure to curb rising unemployment, the White House announced it had “created or saved” at least one million jobs since February. It hoped for one weekend in which the “million jobs created or saved” mantra had a relatively free and uncontested run before economists chewed the number up and spit it out. A week later, the unemployment rate hit 10.2%.
Then there was this past Friday, when the White House delivered a double news dose with a foreign twist. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and five other terrorists would be tried in a civilian court in New York City rather than before a military tribunal. Later that day, the administration announced that White House Counsel Greg Craig was leaving and would be replaced by Democratic National Committee lawyer Bob Bauer. Mr. Obama? He was safely in the air flying to Asia, having left the day before with most of his press corps in tow.
Do Friday news dumps work? Yes, but marginally. The White House press corps is generally exhausted at the end of a long week. Congressional critics are either in route back home to their districts or already there. Friday night network television news and Saturday newspapers and cable coverage are traditionally less seen or read. By Sunday morning, a Friday announcement is often considered old news. Monday is the first opportunity White House correspondents get to ask the president’s press secretary on camera about whatever was released Friday. By then there is almost always other news occupying the headlines.
Such tactics, however, can look disingenuous if they undercut public debate on substantive policy changes—such as deciding to bring terrorists to New York for trial.
What we are seeing with the White House’s timing in releasing its decision on KSM and other terrorists is a presidency clinging to campaign tactics that aim to dominate the 24-hour-news cycle. The problem is that ploys that work in a campaign don’t work nearly as well when you’re in charge of the executive branch. Once in office, you have to live with the consequences of a policy decision.
The debate now taking place over trying terrorists in civilian courts is showing this White House that it cannot escape the hard realities that come with making presidential decisions. Not even Friday afternoons can offer sanctuary from dangerous or ill-considered policy choices.