The thrill is gone for Obama and the media
There’s nothing like a summer vacation to rekindle a romance. So maybe a week on Martha’s Vineyard can bring back some of the magic between the Obama administration and the media.
Before White House press secretary Robert Gibbs left town, he tried to clarify President Barack Obama’s comment that “everybody in Washington gets all wee-weed up.” Gibbs explained to reporters that what the president meant was that they were a bunch of bed wetters who made too much out of the implosion of the White House health care strategy.
Gibbs has grown more sardonic and patronizing as the summer wears on and Obama’s poll numbers wilt.
The press secretary has lectured reporters on the nature of their jobs — apparently to defend the administration against “misinformation” rather than asking impertinent questions like “How will you pay for it?”
When asked recently about the administration’s endless evasions on the public option, Gibbs instead opted to define a monopoly.
“If you had one place to eat lunch before you came to the briefing, do you think it would be cheap?” Gibbs demanded of CNN’s Ed Henry.
Henry should have asked Gibbs to define monopsony: a market in which one buyer is so large that it can control suppliers and ruin competitors. Henry could then explain he’d rather pay too much for the sandwich he wanted than have to eat at a government chow line opened across the street to encourage “competition.”
Gibbs is so crabby because, incredibly, the administration blames the media for the president’s problems.
It tried blaming Republicans, but the GOP is too far out of power. When the leader of the free world is complaining about a posting on the former governor of Alaska’s Facebook page, he’s got problems.
Team Obama tried blaming special interests, but that was a bust too. The president’s deal with the pharmaceutical industry gets him $150 million worth of ads to boost his plan, whatever it is.
The same people who bombard us with ads for products that promise to prevent hardened arteries or encourage hardening elsewhere will soon be selling you Obamacare.
“If you experience doubts about the plan lasting more than four hours, seek immediate help from Organizing for America.”
Democrats tried blaming the “mobs” of “un-American” protesters and “evil mongers” who were giving raspberries to members of Congress at town halls.
That flopped too, leaving the administration to blame the messenger.
And one can understand why Gibbs would be a bit shocked by the slightly less accommodating tone of the media.
Reporters who traveled with the Obama campaign tell horror stories about the organization — dishonesty, rudeness and abysmal access. But those reporters still served up the glowing coverage.
Obama was the hottest news story of their generation. Rather than covering the long-shot freshman senator who would be crushed in February, Obama campaign reporters experienced the reflected glory of being along for a historic journey. There was plenty of motivation to keep that journey going.
Conversely, Obama making a hash out of health care provides plenty of good copy for the White House press corps. And because Obama fatigue has set in with the reading and viewing public, skeptical stories match the national mood.
Some are still in the tank for Obama. But many liberal reporters think the president is blowing the Left’s big chance.
In talking about how everything got so “wee-weed up,” Obama observed that in August of 2008 the media predicted doom because John McCain began to close the gap after picking Sarah Palin.
In trying to explain that the president was talking about media incontinence, Gibbs referred to August and September of 2007, when most predicted Hillary Clinton would roll to victory in Iowa.
So not only are Obama and his people still reliving the campaign, they’re drawing the wrong lessons from it.
At this point in 2007, Obama was coming up in the polls, making Iowa a three-way race with Clinton and John Edwards. Now, the president’s numbers are sinking.
And if the trend line in the late summer of 2008 had held, Obama would have lost. It took a tsunami of bad economic news and the McCain campaign’s mishandling of it to put Obama back on top.
But there is no opponent here other than public opinion and no finish line other than the end of his term.
With only the steady breeze of favorable coverage of a typical Democratic president instead of the gale of positive press that once helped drive Obama to victory, it’s going to be a very long journey.
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