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Obama and the Media: Trouble in Paradise

No more candy, flowers, and long walks on the beach for the press and the president.

by
Jennifer Rubin

Bio

August 28, 2009 - 12:18 am
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Many have remarked upon the growing rift between the former sweethearts.

No, not Gov. Mark Sanford and his Argentine soul mate. It’s the president and the mainstream media. Those soul mates are at odds — squabbling in public and tossing about recriminations. What had been a match made in heaven has turned sour, and it’s not clear they can ever go back to the way things were during their long and intense courtship.

Chris Stirewalt explains:

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.

There is a large element of truth to this. The frustration, especially from the left punditocracy, is palpable. Eugene Robinson frets. Paul Krugman fumes. He’s compromising too much or not fighting hard enough, whine others. The theme is the same: Obama is messing up, the Republicans have duped the unwashed masses, and if Obama doesn’t shape up fast the dream of nationalized health care — and more importantly, of liberal dominance — is going to go up in flames.

So a large element of the Obama-press rift is attributable to disappointment and frustration. The media is not simply covering Obama’s sinking ship of state, they are panicking about it.

But there are other factors at work. For starters, Obama isn’t very nice to the media. It may sound petty, but his obvious and frequent contempt for what they do must be irksome to reporters who fancy themselves to be indispensable elements in the Obama revolution. He spits his disdain for the “24-hour news cycle.” The press is told to buzz off — there is no news to be had on his Martha’s Vineyard vacation (before the eye-popping decision to name a special prosecutor to go after CIA operatives). And for all the promises to be “transparent,” this White House, and Robert Gibbs specifically, seems to be one of the least forthcoming in recent memory.

In short, the Obama team has shown the media little respect — and the press corps has begun to bristle at the high-handed treatment.

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