In 2004, Dana Milbank dubbed President George W. Bush’s White House the “Friday Night Presidency” for its practice of hiding controversial press releases at the end of the news cycle. Bush’s Friday night surprises included approving a Texas redistricting plan, a report that household incomes had dropped for three straight years, and news that the EPA was loosening regulations.
The Obama administration is also no stranger to dumping unpopular news on Friday night, and a long-awaited report on the Keystone XL pipeline last week was enough to give environmentalists a weekend of heartburn. At 3:30pm on Friday, the State Department released a 2,000 page analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline proposal that progressives hoped would highlight the negative environmental impacts of the project. Instead, the report found Keystone would have “no significant impacts to most resources along the proposed Project route.“ The news isn’t pleasing some progressives, with groups like the Sierra Club already registering their “outrage” and calling the report “malpractice.”
Friday night releases by the current White House have stoked liberal ire before. On October 14th, 2011, the administration announced it was ending the Affordable Care Act’s long-term care insurance option, citing concerns of financial sustainability.
But like his predecessor, President Obama has also used the tactic to muffle news that would irk his opponents. On Friday March 16, 2012, the Health and Human Services Department slipped-in a requirement that religiously-affiliated employers provide insurance that covers contraception. And the Department of Homeland Security announced it was halting the deportation of young undocumented immigrants on Friday June 15th, 2012.
The Friday night news dump is a time-honored tradition in politics, but it no longer ensures the news is hidden from the public eye. Alex Wagner and the NOW panel discussed the political implications of the State Department report on Keystone, and how the president may need to mitigate a liberal backlash.