The raucous sound of applause for President Obama when he spoke at the White House Correspondents Dinner underlined what could be the news media's motto: "You had us at hello." They shamelessly cheered and screamed even louder when he only half-joked, "I am Barack Obama. Most of you covered me. All of you voted for me."
The public should wonder: Are the media too personally infatuated with this president? A recent video even showed the White House press corps standing up in homage when President Obama entered the briefing room -- a definite, emotional break with the normal, disinterested stay-seated routine for that room. Any sense of detachment is utterly missing, even in their body language.
In the media's own mythology, they are the constant, unbending defenders of democracy who "speak truth to power" and refuse to act as a "stenographer" for the power elite. In the unfolding reality, our national press has become one giant ... poodle to this president.
Rich Noyes of the Media Research Center has finished a new report titled "Cheerleaders for the Revolution," examining the network TV coverage of Obama during his first 100 days. The results are pathetic. What we're seeing aren't reporters. They are walking, talking press releases.
President Obama is very rapidly transforming American government into a European socialist model, and the study found that no network used the word "socialist" to describe Obama's plans. So is he a far-leftist? No. A leftist? No. They couldn't even call him a "liberal" as he took over banks and car companies, started firing CEOs and micromanaging bankruptcies to enable his campaign funders in the auto-worker unions.
Truth is the first casualty of their affections. Take the Obama budget. It carries an astounding price tag of $3.5 trillion, with an expected deficit of $1.75 trillion, or half the entire budget. Under Obama's budget plans, the national debt would explode to more than $20 trillion by 2019, the Congressional Budget Office determined. But in the four days leading up to Obama's putative State of the Union speech, as he organized fatuous "fiscal responsibility" events, the obsequious network evening newscasts painted the president more as a deficit fighter 83 percent of the time. Only in 17 percent of the soundbites was he painted as a big spender.
Their choice of stories was very selective. The networks went on a feeding frenzy against big corporate bonuses. The networks aired six times more statements forwarding the "infuriated" reaction to business than criticized politicians' grandstanding. The networks spent days decrying AIG's $165 million in bonuses, but spiked the $210 million handed out by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the bailed-out mortgage giants with strong Democratic ties). ABC and NBC completely ignored the Fannie and Freddie bonuses. CBS gave it a whopping 27 seconds.
On every issue, the networks showered Obama with praise. The networks applauded Obama's decision to use taxpayer money to fund embryo-destroying stem cell research. "Scientists tonight tell us they are overjoyed by the news, saying Monday will be a great day for science and for patients," cooed ABC's Lisa Stark.
The networks piled on the positives for the president's actions on global warming. When Obama demanded higher fuel-economy standards for cars, "The change in course delighted the president's audience of long-suffering environmental activists," CBS's Chip Reid reported.
Even President Obama's decision to send thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan was greeted by nearly unanimous positive coverage -- a far cry from the highly negative coverage of President Bush's successful troop surge in Iraq two years ago. The networks offered praise for Obama's surge, even as Obama had opposed Bush's Iraq surge.
On issue after issue, too many stories offered the opinions of only Obama and his minions. Critics were scarce.
It's not surprising that most presidents get a honeymoon in the early months. But Obama's TV news coverage has been better than any other modern president has received. The networks assaulted the tax-cut proposals of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush right away. The anchormen pressured George H. W. Bush to read their lips and abandon his "no new taxes" in the first 100 days. Even Bill Clinton drew some negative coverage from TV news stars disappointed at his clumsy Cabinet picking and front-loading the issue of gays in the military.
But Obama is a savior -- a savior of the economy, a savior of the environment, and a savior of America's confidence and its reputation around the globe. Those screams and cheers at the White House Correspondents' Dinner are just a tiny bit more pronounced than the "news" that anchors and reporters have offered every day, in every way.