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There was never a single moment when White House staff decided the major media outlets were falling down on the job. There were instead several such moments.
For press secretary Robert Gibbs, the realization came in early September, when the New York Times ran a front-page story about the bubbling parental outrage over President Obama's plan to address schoolchildren - even though the benign contents of the speech were not yet public. "You had to be like, 'Wait a minute,'" says Gibbs. "This thing has become a three-ring circus."
For deputy communications director Dan Pfeiffer, the more hyperbolic attacks on health-care reform this summer, which were often covered as a "controversy," flipped an internal switch. "When you are having a debate about whether or not you want to kill people's grandmother," he explains, "the normal rules of engagement don't apply."