President Obama has shown the dent in his shield. He’s sensitive about what people think of him. That’s understandable since there was very little negative coverage of him during the campaign. In addition, he had so much money he could drown out any negative questions about him. The networks and the mainline newspapers had to admit after the election they’d been a little slanted towards Obama in their coverage. You can’t blame them. As then-Senator Biden said during the campaign, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”
The coverage of candidate Obama was like a storybook with a very happy ending. Even during the campaign, there were hints of the thin skin on criticism. He didn’t want Maureen Dowd commenting on his big ears. His “people” tried to silence radio and newspaper voices in Chicago who were negative towards him. He threw reporters from newspapers that didn’t endorse him off “Obama Air” in the waning days of the campaign. He called out Sean Hannity and the Fox News Channel. Interestingly enough, when the Pew Research Center looked at the coverage of the candidates in the general election, Fox News Channel had almost an even split of stories about each candidate — they were indeed balanced.
Then there was the appearance of “pay to play” during the inaugural coverage. ABC News was the big monetary sponsor of Obama’s Neighborhood Ball and they were the only broadcast outlet to get an on-air interview with the new president on Inauguration Day. As a final nail in the Inauguration Day snub of the media, there was the swearing-in “redo” and no broadcast media sources were asked.
To make it up to the media, President Obama came down to visit the White House press corps and didn’t get a warm reception on either side. So what’s a guy to do? If President Obama doesn’t like the way the media is treating him, maybe he should talk to former President Bush. The coverage of Obama is overwhelmingly positive and even in that context he complains. On top of that Robert Gibbs is so inept, he makes Scott McClellan look like Mike McCurry of the Clinton era — and that takes some doing.
Finally, Obama’s feeble attempt to attack talk radio and his calling out Rush Limbaugh by name really shows it’s getting to him. Presidents are above that kind of fray and it comes with the job. He’s had two years of adulation; he’s got to get ready for the fall. Clearly he wants to be liked. He’s like Clinton in that way: a guy growing up without a father looks to the adulation to fill the gap. But once you get into the Oval Office, all that stuff has to go by the wayside and you have to work for the people. It’s not talk any more; it’s action.
So what’s my advice to President Obama? I would tell him, “Mr. President, you are going to make people angry no matter what you do so do the right thing. You won by not much more of a margin than President Bush did in 2004 and it won’t be enough to be reelected in 2012. Forget about making the special interests on the left happy; they are never happy. You won and they are still not happy. Abandon the stimulus package, extend the Bush tax cuts, cut capital gains taxes, and make government accountable and you’ll win the first round. Oh, and don’t watch television or listen to the radio, unless it’s me or Rush Limbaugh.”
If Mr. Obama is fed up with his coverage now and thinks folks aren’t being fair, he’s on the way to a Nixon-like enemies list and that will just lead to sitting alone in the Oval Office swearing at people and that’s not his style, or is it? The point seems to be lost on him that not everyone is going to like him, so he needs to be confident in his own vision to get it done even if it makes Nancy Pelosi frown. And that’s saying something.
We in the media in the loyal opposition wing of opinion policy and analysis are going to hold Obama accountable even if soon-to-be Senate candidate and NBC anchor Chris “I’ve Got a Thrill Up My Leg” Matthews won’t do it. Mr. Obama, they are doing you the greatest disservice, telling the folks and you that everything you do is golden. No one is that good and at the pinnacle of the pyramid of power in the world, it’s easy to fall off if you don’t have your bearings.