Is It 'Ethical' For Reporters To Play with Water Guns At Joe Biden's Mansion?

The release of those comical pictures of White House reporters having Super Soaker fights with White House employees at Joe Biden's mansion this past weekend has launched a raging ethical debate.

The would-be problem with this strange reporter/politician summer "beach party" at Joe Biden's government mansion involves a hypothetical like this: Do you really trust the man who wrote the following string of tweets, CNN senior White House correspondent Ed Henry, to bother pursuing negative stories, or doing anything even resembling accountability journalism in the most generous sense, against anyone with the slightest bit of power, ever?

Is It 'Ethical' For Reporters To Play with Water Guns At Joe Biden's Mansion?

It's almost as tragic and hilarious as his similar string of tweets about meeting Kim Kardashian at this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner. (We can't locate the appropriate screengrab right now. Breathe easy.)

The Atlantic's political editor Marc Ambinder was also at the Joe Biden government squirt gun party this weekend, and has been getting flamed all day after posting a video of the Super Soaker fights, which he reportedly lost. Ambinder responded with a measured defense of his ethics.

I take this argument to heart: journalists worthy of the name ought to be on duty 24 hours a day, and in an ideal world, any opportunity to interact with administration officials should be an opportunity to grill those officials on any range of subjects. Journalists, if they're good for anything, should use whatever access they have to consistently and relentless pressure powerful interests. We're at war; the government is detaining people indefinitely; there's a huge oil spill in the gulf; there are better things to do.

But a bunch of really good, hardened, news-breaking, interest-accountable holding reporters are in fact able to share more comfortable moments with people they cover.

Fair enough. But who were these "really good, hardened, news-breaking, interest-accountable holding reporters" who accepted invites to the Joe Biden water gun party? This is far too flattering a description for Ed Henry.

One thing that's clear is that we haven't had a hilarious politician house party scandal like this in the political media since the 2008 presidential campaign, when John McCain held a barbecue for literally all political reporters at his Sedona ranch. Painful, it is, remembering those dark days of debate over the ethics of one reporter going crazy on McCain's tire swing, with her champagne.