October 13, 2009 — At the Shorenstein Center’s brown-bag lunch, Major Garrett, senior White House correspondent for Fox News, discussed covering a historic campaign and presidency, and the “public feud” between the White House communications office and his network.
The feud concerns a statement from White House communications director Anita Dunn about Fox News. Garrett said it puts him in an uncomfortable position “as a journalist … and as a person.” “I feel the weight of this on my shoulders perpetually,” he said, “and it makes my job harder.” He says there is still a “wall … a veil” that obstructs his job as a “simple journalist.” Yet Garrett says he doesn’t need White House endorsement; in journalism, “everything is accountable on a daily basis” and on television, “on an hour-to-hour basis.”
Garrett called the U.S. presidency “the toughest job on the planet,” and noted that firmly held campaign promises are often met with uncomfortable realities. The war in Afghanistan and the health care debate are the “great issues” that are proving to be more complicated after the election than before, Garrett said.
The issue of health care in particular “raises not only issues of politics and policy, but it raises more fundamental issues of hopes and fears,” said Garrett. He predicts that Obama will sign a plan before Christmas, but he stated that the legislation will not take effect before the next election. “America changes when big risks are taken,” he said. “And on health care, the president is betting the farm.”
This article was written by Janell Sims and the photos taken by Leighton Walter Kille, both of the Shorenstein Center.