End of a Love Affair?

You don’t need a time machine to recall how the media portrayed then Sen. Barack Obama in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election.

Scribes dutifully reported on Obama’s bipartisan nature, his intellectual fitness for the task at hand and his promise of a truly transparency administration.

Business as usual would no longer hold the political process in its meaty grip.

That was the narrative not just from Team Obama but from the starry eyed reporters covering the well-spoken candidate.

Who can forget MSNBC host Chris Matthews describing the “tingle” up his leg when Obama spoke, or how “conservative” New York Times columnist David Brooks marveled at the crease in Obama’s pants as a sure sign of competency and potential greatness.


Comparisons to Abraham Lincoln flooded the media marketplace, as did terms like “rock star” and the “Age of Obama.”

Too bad reality had something else in mind. But reality and the news can be strange bedfellows with a Democrat in the White House.

The love-in began long before Obama put his right hand on the Bible to take the oath of office.

When Obama’s presidential campaign stumbled over his ties to the hateful Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the press quickly covered for him via his supposedly historic speech on race.

On March 19, 2008, The New York Times compared the speech to ones given by Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.

That healing touch evaporated when an actual racial issue emerged—the arrest of black scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. by a white Cambridge, Mass., police officer.

Merely three days into the Obama presidency, ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos gushed like a runaway oil tanker about the new Commander in Chief: “Change, which was the headline of the Obama campaign. And this first week was disciplined and strategic like that campaign, all designed to show that the President is moving on all fronts to bring change.”

David Broder, the dean of the Inside the Beltway establishment, couldn’t wait to pronounce the new administration a success:

“The first week of Barack Obama’s transition to the presidency has gone about as well as anyone could imagine,” he wrote on Nov. 13, 2008.

The media gleefully fed the notion Obama would be the bipartisan President that the country demanded after eight years of the polarizing Bush Administration. Obama could build a bridge between the parties, we were told, even though he had done little of such construction work in his brief political career.

A Nov. 23, 2008 story in The New York Times ran with the headline “Initial Steps by Obama Suggest a Bipartisan Flair.”

The reality, once again, is starkly different.

Obama has spent his presidency telling people not to listen to Rush Limbaugh, blaming his GOP predecessor at every turn and ramming healthcare legislation down the country’s throat without a single Republican vote.

The press declared Obama the portrait of competence despite a shockingly thin resume. When pressed, reporters—and Obama himself—cited his crackerjack presidential campaign as an example of how he runs a tight ship. Never mind the fact that he ran against a very unpopular president and had the press in his back pocket.

Now, with the gulf oil spill commandeering the front pages, Obama’s competence as a leader is no longer a given.

Even hardcore liberals like James Carville and Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel have blasted the administration for its negligence in handling the oil spill crisis, while sycophant scribes including New York Times columnist Maureen Down have slammed his leadership—or lack thereof.

Obama’s tin touch with the economy marks another area where the media myth disintegrated.

Richard Wolf in the Nov. 25, 2008 edition of USA Today wrote Obama, “got high marks from the White House to Wall Street on Monday for choosing crafty economic policymakers to lead the nation through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.”

Yet unemployment remains shockingly high, job creation only exists in the public sector and the national debt can’t be described without using the word “unsustainable.”

Perhaps the most glaring example of Obama’s rhetoric versus reality comes with his attempt to bring transparency to the Oval Office.

Cameras captured Obama promising on at least eight occasions how he would make sure to telecast the healthcare debate on C-SPAN. Nothing of the sort transpired.

The President’s White House press conference last month was his first in nearly a year. He didn’t even take questions during an event to mark the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act. But Obama chatted up a storm with Marv Albert in an interview tied to the NBA playoffs.

And the promise to post bills online 72 hours before a vote also got nixed.

The press is finally waking up to the real Obama Administration. Reporters could only spin on Obama’s behalf for so long, but for a weary public sold a sorry bill of goods it just means another reason to view the mainstream press with a jaundiced eye.

Cartoon courtesy of Brett Noel