Tuesday, September 29, 2009

According To The Media, The President Should Avoid The Media?


It only seems like yesterday that all the President had to do to get gushing media attention was pull on a Superman suit, slap a silly claim on a banner, and get a bunch of firemen or servicemen to stand around him as props while he made a speech. My, how times change. Now, apparently, it's unseemly for a President to want media attention, and even worse for a President to consider his legacy.

First we have Robert Samuelson complaining that the only possible reason President Obama could be pursuing healthcare reform is as a manifestation of "politicians' psychological quest for glory." To prove that Obama is concerned only with himself, Samuelson selectively quotes and comments on statements made by Max Baucus. Funny, last I checked, Obama and Baucus were different people.

Next, we have Howard Fineman complaining that Obama is trying to take control of the message on healthcare reform, and is appearing in the media (of all places) to advance his goals. Following up on a couple months of flagrant lies and misrepresentations about healthcare reform from the political right, Fineman whines,
The president's problem isn't that he is too visible; it's the lack of content in what he says when he keeps showing up on the tube. Obama can seem a mite too impressed with his own aura, as if his presence on the stage is the Answer.
He proceeds with a rather childish, and in my opinion false, claim that Obama's speeches are too "self-referential (even self-reverential)". (Dare I ask, did Fineman ever write about Bob Dole?)

Now we have the astounding Richard Cohen joining the chorus of complaints,
Sooner or later it is going to occur to Barack Obama that he is the president of the United States. As of yet, though, he does not act that way, appearing promiscuously on television and granting interviews like the presidential candidate he no longer is. The election has been held, but the campaign goes on and on.
Whenever a theme like this starts to emerge, I am left wondering if there's a puppet master pulling the strings. Just as when you see a particular theme being circulated in the right-wing media, its timing and consistency, right down to the particular phrase they want to drill into listener's heads, is usually tightly coordinated.

Granted, sometimes the complaint that somebody is in the media "too much" means "He's talking to everybody else but won't return my calls." Sometimes this type of complaint is a thin substitute for the fact that the columnist doesn't agree with the President's goals, but it's a lot easier to write (particularly for somebody like Cohen) than a substantive piece on the underlying policies. And I don't think it takes much to wind Cohen up and cause him to write a thinly-reasoned, mean-spirited column about Obama. As they say, never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity.

Update: The "It's all about me" theme has been picked by Marty Peretz and George Will, who respectively accuse Obama of being a narcissist and on an ego trip. Er... takes one to know one?

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