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“If Obama doesn’t think he has gotten a good press…”

by | May 16, 2013

By Dave Andrusko

HardballWe are—for the moment—in the middle of one of those brief periods where the media’s love affair with Barack Obama is receding, like the waves heading away from shore. Reporters are a little bit harder on the Obama Administration. They still aren’t throwing overhand but the pace of the softball questions pitched underhand has picked up a bit.

The reason this is so is outside our single-issue purview; besides everyone knows what the emerging scandals are. I’d like to take five minutes to remind ourselves how hard it will be for the “mainstream media” to maintain its scrutiny of a man in whose thrall they largely remain.

Kudos to the invaluable Newbusters for its piece yesterday which explored a segment on Wednesday’s edition of “Hardball.” Alex Wagner whines about how much Obama has “done for the country,” so why should he put up with the “unfair” way the “chattering class” treats “his legislative record and his accomplishments.” Here’s the Newsbusters’ transcription:

CHRIS MATTHEWS [With a bit of contempt in his tone]: Let me tell you something. The press has generally been pro-Obama. That’s a fact. If he doesn’t think he has gotten– If he hasn’t gotten good press, he is crazy.

WAGNER: I’m analyzing what I think may be happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

MATTHEWS: He has gotten– Yes– Alex, they, over there, are very uninformed about the history of presidencies. This guy has probably gotten the best press since Reagan. Dana, don’t you think? You don’t have to watch Fox if you don’t want to. It’s there. But, if you don’t watch Fox, you don’t watch Limbaugh, there’s a lot of other opinion out there. I look at the major newspapers. I look at the major networks, broadcast nets. I look at us. I don’t see a lot of– CNN. Where’s all this antipathy towards Obama?

But that didn’t stop Paul Farhi from the Washington Post from arguing that the media has never swooned for Obama the way conservatives (and pro-lifers) say they have. This “article of faith” has it all wrong. Things have long been testy between the White House and the press corps (“at least among those who cover the President”) and have grown worse of late due to various scandals-in-the-making.

But this, of course, is to confuse categories. Everyone knows that the Obama Administration has terrorized and belittled and ignored reporters. As Farhi put it, “Journalists have often been frustrated by what they see as a disdainful and belittling attitude toward them by members of the White House’s communications office, headed by Jennifer Palmieri. Many White House journalists have been on the receiving end of scathing assessments of their work from White House press officials, replete with four-letter words and an occasional shouting match. “

The next sentence is, “Some have characterized it as a tactic to nudge them into accepting the administration’s view.” As if the White House press corps has been packed with baying hounds, thirsting for the President’s head and had to be bullied into “accepting the administration’s view.”

The point is not to confuse the dreadful way the Obama Administration has treated reporters with the equally valid truth that reporters have long been predisposed to treat Obama with kid’s gloves—aka they didn’t need to be threatened to be as easy on Obama as they were hard on President George W. Bush. That’s one of the reasons reporters are treated with such abiding contempt.

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So why have reporters (for the moment) summoned themselves out of subservience? Ari Fleischer, who was President George W. Bush’s press secretary, hit it right on the head. According to Farhi, Fleischer

“suggests that the two events that ‘shattered’ the media’s relationship with Obama both directly affected the media: the Justice Department’s investigation of the Associated Press and the White House’s decision to shield Obama from reporters during a weekend golf outing in March. ‘It’s a sad reflection on the press,’ Fleischer said. ‘They gave him the benefit of the doubt until it became about them.’”

And, of course, you need to add that most reporters (see Chris Matthews’ comments) will return to their status as flattering flacks as surely as swallows return to Capistrano.

Categories: Media Bias