Over the weekend, I got a link to a story about Malia Obama  heading off to Mexico for vacation with 12 friends and 25 Secret Service  agents.  The story is newsworthy because it implicates taxpayer  concerns:  Malia is going to a nation that the State Department warns is dangerous, and  Americans are footing the bill for the 25 federal employees who are  necessary to offset that danger. I know that these Secret Service agents  are on the payroll regardless, but feeding and lodging them outside of Washington, D.C. becomes the  taxpayers’ burden.  (In the same way, Obama’s little basketball jaunt with  PM Cameron cost the taxpayers an extra $478,000 over the regular fixed costs in  the “taking care of POTUS” budget.)

You’ll notice that I haven’t included the link to the story  about Malia Obama’s trip.  That’s because, by the time I received the email  with the link to the Malia vacation story, the great white-out had begun.   As I, and every other sentient web-using being had noticed, the story about  Malia Obama was melting away as quickly as the wet Wicked Witch  of the WestThose of us trying to find a solid  link for the story felt as if we were playing a bizarre version of  whack-a-mole.  The links would pop up for a  second, only to vanish again.

The big question, of course, was why?  Why is an apparently properly  sourced story vanishing?  If it was false, one would expect White House  push-back, with the news sources either denying the White House’s arguments or  issuing apologies for their error.  A vanishing story, however, has been a  first.  And now the truth has come out.  The White House told the news  agencies that it’s not fair to report on the  kids:

The White House has admitted to  telling news agencies to pull stories on Malia Obama visiting the Mexico for spring break, Politico  reports.

Kristina Schake, Communications Director to the First Lady, emailed Dylan Byers:

From the beginning of the administration, the White House has  asked news outlets not to report on or photograph the Obama children when they  are not with their parents and there is no vital news interest. We have reminded  outlets of this request in order to protect the privacy and security of these girls.

There are a couple of problems, however, with the  White House’s reasoning and the media’s craven collapse.  First, as I noted  in my opening paragraph, it is newsworthy that the White House has opted to  impose on taxpayers the very real and high costs of sending the First Daughter  to a nation that’s on the State Department’s own warning list  .

Second, the Obamas routinely  trot out the kids to score political points.  The most recent example was  the way President Obama used his daughters to justify calling Sandra Fluke to  sympathize with her when Rush Limbaugh suggested that spending thousands of  dollars on **noallow** aids, and then expecting others to pay for them,  suggested that Fluke is not a lady, in the old-fashioned sense of the  word.  Bristol Palin sums it up  nicely:

You don’t know my telephone number,  but I hope your staff is busy trying to find it. Ever since you called Sandra  Fluke after Rush Limbaugh called her a slut, I figured I might be next.   You explained to reporters you called her because you were thinking of your two  daughters, Malia and Sasha.  After all, you didn’t want them to think it  was okay for men to treat them that way:

“One of the things I want them to do as they get older is  engage in issues they care about, even ones I may not agree with them on,” you  said.  “I want them to be able to speak their mind in a civil and  thoughtful way. And I don’t want them attacked or called horrible names because  they’re being good citizens.”

Most political observers also thought it wasn’t a  coincidence that Barack’s and Michelle’s 2011 Christmas card — the last one  they’ll be sending out before the election — prominently features their two  daughters.  This was a campaign photo and it made the daughters a  prop.

I don’t mind that Obama is using  his daughters politically.  Politicians do that all the time, and it’s no  use pretending that the Obamas don’t have two daughters out there who make  perfect photographic and rhetorical props.  What I do mind is that the  White House gets to eat its cake and have it.  It announces to the press “We get to use the Obama girls when it’s good for us, but you don’t get to use  the Obama girls when it’s bad for us.”  And the press, meekly, goes  away.

Rather than collapsing  spinelessly, the press, collectively, should have said, “Sorry, but this story  is already out there, so you’ll have to deal with the  security consequences of sending your daughter off to a dangerous country.   As for future stories, we won’t report on your daughters if you’ll stop using  them to score political points.  As long as you keep them in the public  eye, however, they’re fair game for honest reporting about their  activities.”

I guess, though, that my dream of an upright and  honest media is as much a fantasy as that melting Wicked Witch of the  West.