|Media Sharks No More
Posted 04/28/2009 ET
Updated 04/29/2009 ET
Compared to the American media’s coverage of Obama’s first days in office, Pravda's coverage of Nikita Khrushchev’s exploits looks like “gotcha journalism.” But the Soviet strongman did have his disadvantages.
Khrushchev was, after all, a Ukrainian peasant given to removing his shoe and banging it on a desk during meetings of the U.N. General Assembly. He wasn’t the black political phenomenon recognized by Joe Biden in February 2007. Obama’s future Vice President alerted the media by saying: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” “I mean that’s a storybook, man," Biden added.
From that moment, the mainstream media were bound men (and women and some things in between). They found rapture in Obama’s every word, and for the rest of 2007 and all through the 2008 campaign the Bush-era media sharks were transmogrified into a pack of tail-wagging puppies not infrequently wetting the floor in excitement over their guy.
Matthews Helps Obama
Having nearly expired in ecstasy on election night, Chris Matthews was sufficiently recovered two mornings later to set the media line for Obama’s first 100 days (and beyond). Matthews engaged in the following exchange with an incredulous Joe Scarborough:
MATTHEWS: “Yeah, well, you know what? I want to do everything I can to make this thing work, this new presidency work, and I think that.…”
SCARBOROUGH: “Is that your job? You just talked about being a journalist!”
MATTHEWS: “Yeah, it is my job. My job is to help this country.”
That definition -- conflating the nation’s success with Obama’s -- was all the media culture needed. Remember, it’s a culture, not a conspiracy. And having absorbed the Matthews Equation, the culture could admit no heretical thought.
And it hasn’t. They’ve done a thorough job both reporting Obama’s actions in glowing terms and in burying the stories that might actually change the public’s opinion of their heart throb.
It began with the inauguration. To CBS’s Harry Smith, that was a religious experience.
On January 21, Smith reported: “Politics, and patriotism, and the presidency. It is the place where the secular and the religious merge. And one of the sacraments of our national religion is the inauguration... So it was that as many as two million pilgrims made their way to Washington and the Mall to witness this most sacred event.”
Two days later, Obama enlisted the media herd to attack Rush Limbaugh. Seeking support for his trillion-dollar “stimulus package” over Republican objections, Obama said, “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.”
The media went into a feeding frenzy: One after another joined in, accusing the Republicans of being the party of Limbaugh. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel mockingly told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Limbaugh was “the voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party.”
What they didn’t understand is that most Republicans only wish their party really were the party of Rush. When the smoke cleared, no House or Senate Republicans voted for the stimulus bill. (And, no, we don’t count Specter, Collins and Snowe). And Limbaugh’s ratings actually went up.
On Feb. 9, Obama held his first White House press conference. His long and rambling answers roused ABC’s Charles Gibson to report that President Obama treated “each question almost as a teaching moment with long and expansive answers.”
Soon after, the media herd was stampeding again. Their senses as acute as a shark’s nose for blood in the water, the liberal newsies ran toward the smell of taxpayers’ money about to flood out from Washington.
The morning of February 17 -- the day on which Obama signed the $1.2 trillion “stimulus” package -- was greeted by a Washington Post report that bewailed Obama’s timidity for not pressing for a bigger package. Said the Post story, “Some say Obama must aim higher next time, so that compromises produce a more satisfactory result.… And some say liberals and pro-Democratic interest groups such as labor unions must do a better job of pressuring moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats to back the President.” The “some,” of course were the chorus of liberals the article went on to quote.
The media adulation hasn’t been limited to domestic issues. At Obama’s first three international summits, his announced agenda included getting more European troops for Afghanistan, and economic spending for self-imposed “stimuli,” yet he achieved none of those goals. But USA Today reported on April 6, “The President’s success has been partly a result of his setting limited expectations for the trip. If he had come to Europe hoping for major new government spending to spur economic growth or an infusion of other nations’ combat troops to join U.S. forces in Afghanistan, his trip likely would have been deemed a failure.”
There’s nothing he can do -- or not do -- that the media won’t like. Well, maybe a few things. Those are the ones they refuse to report.
Refusing to report news unflattering to Democrats is nothing new. Remember New Jersey Sen. Robert Torricelli?
Elected to the Senate in 1996, “the Torch” had a moral compass comparable to Eliot Spitzer’s. The investigation into Torricelli’s corruption went on for months before the liberal media reported it. As I wrote two years ago, you could count 50 stories on Fox News about it dated before the New York Times ran one.
Media On Obama’s Side
What could possibly embarrass Obama that the media declines to report?
What about the Ted Stevens prosecution? Stevens lost because of it, and his loss brought the Democrats to within one vote of the filibuster-proof 60 votes it was thrown out for prosecutorial misconduct. But how is the timing of the prosecution -- right before the 2008 election, which Stevens lost very narrowly -- of no interest to the media? Isn’t the possibility of political influence worth five minutes on CBS News?
How about the story of Obama’s decision to close the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention facility? Why isn’t the press demanding an answer to where the detainees are going to go, especially given Atty. Gen. Eric Holder’s declaration that some may be let loose inside the United States?
And where is the critical examination of the supposedly scientific basis for Obama’s “cap and trade” energy tax? Most of the “science” behind the global-warming ideology has been disproven, and the fact is that the Earth is actually cooling. If global warming were a conservative idea, the media would be comparing it to the search for WMD in Iraq and demanding real proofs to justify the new tax.
Unless Obama is able to violate every historic trend in economics, his multi-trillion-dollar spending spree is bound to have a huge inflationary impact. How soon will it come and how bad will it be? The media are silent.
And then there are the falsehoods and half-truths the President delivers almost daily. Every time he says 90% of the guns used in Mexico’s drug war come from American gun dealers, the falsehood goes unchallenged. When he doesn’t reveal what he offered Medvedev on the European missile defense, none in the media demand an answer.
It’s just what the title of Bernie Goldberg’s book says: “a slobbering love” affair between the media and the President. And so it goes.