The only time in my life as a broadcaster that I departed from impartial analysis was after 9/11, when I waxed lyrical about Donald Rumsfeld. He had united a fractured nation with his oft-hilarious press conferences. His wit and raw patriotism were an inspiration to many at home and to those of us suffering abroad in a fiercely anti-American world. However adoring the press was towards Rumsfeld, nothing equals in unctuousness a recent issue of Newsweek, “Obama on Obama.”
Journalists are supposed to be impartial in reporting on the peregrinations of leaders. Little wonder I nearly dropped my pizza slice all over my “Don’t Tread on Me” t-shirt when I saw the aforementioned issue of Newsweek with the president on the cover. Apparently this is the twenty-sixth time Barack Hussein Obama has been on Newsweek and Time covers since 2007. Newsweek was renamed Obamaweek on a Fox News panel show in mid-June and this made me happy because I thought I was overreacting when the text of the O feature began to muddle my grey matter.
It should be noted that I am not a rabid Obama-hater and have, in previous op-eds, noted the joy with which my late, devoutly liberal mother, a lifetime fighter for gay and civil rights, would have kvelled on November 4, 2008. My problem with Newsweek is that the man is being lionized before he has achieved anything great for our beleaguered nation. It should also be noted that it is not proper to attack a fellow journalist, but I felt compelled to critique the profile of the president because it borders on hero worship. Were she alive my late mother would argue that she would have been paralyzed with awe interviewing Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but, whether one loves or loathes the legacy of FDR, BHO is not yet in that league.
This is what offends me:
In the feature about President Obama, the journalist, Jon Meacham, kicks off with “Barack Obama, moving as he wishes to move, and the world bending itself to him.” What does this mean? Yes, he did bend to the Saudi princes. When he went to Russia in July did Vlad Putin bend to him? Vlad was not even at the airport and was probably practicing his karate moves in his personal Kremlin gym.
Meacham goes on to observe that the travails of Obama’s days as a community activist have metamorphosed into “a palpable feeling of authority and effectiveness. What he says, what he does, what he decides: it matters, and he loves that.” Well, we should be glad that the president likes his job, but as things seem to be going from bad to worse, from the economy to world affairs to state budget disasters, it seems what he says does not matter to the folks slaughtering one another in Honduras, China, the Middle East, the Gulf, Africa, and a few other troubled locales.
As I write this British soldiers are being killed on a daily basis in Afghanistan in an alarming spike in the power of the Taliban. All manner of terror organizations are regrouping and Pakistan is on the brink of becoming another ninth-century center for mullah mania. So in this context Newsweek says that the president has taken on the automobile industry, the financial sector, and terrorism — in the magazine’s words, “he is the action.”
Meacham says he is delighted that the president remembered something he had written, although he acknowledges that White House staff had briefed him on a Meacham piece moments before the interview. The journalist muses, “I knew he’d remember, or well, he may be faking it with everybody else, but I bet he really did like that piece.” Omigosh! Is he meeting a supermodel on whom he has a midlife crush or what? We even learn about “his voice rising ever so slightly, his head tilting back ever so subtly to a commanding angle.” And we also learn that the president is “Spock with global sex appeal.” Later on Meacham reports that the president gives him a Spock salute. Cute and human, but with the world in turmoil I prefer something of more, well, substance.
At this point I would like to go back in time to the moment when Rummy fans were legion and adored Don Rumsfeld’s every quip, even discussing on blogs his choice of necktie. Midge Decter was pilloried around the world in the liberal press for her book about the secretary of defense, perceived as a protracted love letter. As we watch the Israelis endure thousands of rocket attacks and Muslim countries continuing to move backwards in time, many lament the absence of a Rumsfeld, whose patriotism was blunt and who “was the action.” All across the world his “New Europe” and “Old Europe” observations are legendary; they have now become part of the regular discourse in Britain and Europe — even sports and film writers refer to events in their milieu with those expressions. It will be interesting to see whether the Jon Meacham love letter to Obama will be viewed in coming years as a damp squib.
Back to Obamaweek:
Rumsfeld was ridiculed for saying the American people have a “good center of gravity.” In the Meacham interview President Obama says, “The American people … not only have a toleration but also a hunger for explanation and complexity.” He is absolutely right and one can only hope he is a “man of action” on that score: Americans need explanations for the worsening job scene, an escalating crime rate, and rampant homelessness in white- and blue-collar regions.
It is notable that President Obama says we must talk to our enemies and hopes the “Islamic Republic of Iran” will “retain its Islamic character” and will be a “member in good standing of the international community,” adding that “we are going to reach out to them.” This interview took place before the June 12 elections and before the valiant people’s demonstrations in the Islamic Republic, a drama that seemed to generate a remarkable silence from the White House. The events in Iran in June ought to have resulted in a revolution with inspiring rhetoric from the United States, but Obama says in the magazine that the American administration should merely encourage Ahmadinejad to “shift off a pattern over the past thirty years that hasn’t produced results in the region.” He adds that he will endeavor to make clear to Israel that these approaches are “superior to some of the other alternatives.”
That’s what Neville Chamberlain said. “Peace in our time.”
Heaven help us.