As confirmed by Politico.com's Ben Smith in his corroboration of the story that broke on the Drudge Report last night, the Obama campaign did indeed bump three major newspapers from the press group traveling aboard the candidate's plane. Although press accounts are not specific, it is assumed that their removal was conducted while the plane was still on the ground.
The Obama campaign indicated that they will try to find seats on campaign buses for the disenfranchised Dallas Morning News, Washington Times and New York Post staff, and that they are encouraging them to travel with Joe Biden.
(Two major right-leaning newspapers, who now have an axe to grind, riding along with the king of the gaffes? One would think that Team Obama would be better served in the final days of the election by giving them daily interview sessions with Barack than by placing them within earshot of gaffemaster Joe.)
While it is true that in a similar move, Senator McCain barred Maureen Dowd and Joe Klein from his campaign plane, there is a subtle but important distinction between that punishment and the kind of retribution Obama is meting out.
Dowd and Klein are columnists. They write commentary and analysis in their own voice and the result is mainly the opinion of the writer as an individual. When a columnist gleefully pounds away at a politician, it doesn't seem at all out of bounds for the politician to shut down that one person's access. Even if the lex talionis - eye for an eye - mode of justice may be harsh, at least it observes some semblance of symmetry.
A newspaper's endorsement of a candidate is a decision more often made by the ownership of the paper, in consultation with the editorial staff, but it is never made by reporters. The reporting done thus far by the ejected journalists has not been harmful to Obama. On the contrary, most campaign trail reporting tips toward positive coverage of a candidate as reporters develop a relationship with the candidate they are covering. Label it human nature or the Helsinki Syndrome, depending on your perspective.
There is no balance in Obama's retaliatory strike and it could say something larger about how he will apply power to other problems that arise. In international terms, we assign a particular label to people and causes that consider innocents as appropriate tools for conveying political messages. In domestic terms it is political thuggery and the penchant the Obama camp has for silencing dissent should at least give us a reason to retain skepticism, whether you color yourself red, blue or purple.
The Chicago-style politics of making war on anyone a politician classifies as 'enemies' by hitting their proxies is something that we, as a nation, have been trying to extinguish for more than one hundred years, but the Obama machine is reviving those tactics of naked power and proving that they still work. He is giving us a sample, a sneak peak of his wilder side.
With the prospect of single-party rule of the federal government, and intimidation of media who are perceived as 'unfriendly' to an Obama administration, more than ever it seems clear that a vote for Obama is a vote for change. When we realize what the word 'change' really means in Obamaspeak, I only hope that we will be able to change back.