Barack Obama and his supporters have been relentlessly comparing the new president to Franklin Roosevelt. At least one similarity is shockingly accurate: They were both beneficiaries of an obsequious press corps.
In part because the feeling was mutual, the reporters hated FDR's Republican predecessor, Herbert Hoover. The new Democratic president, however, left White House correspondents "jubilant," in one historian's words. Indeed, they were so charmed by his first news conference, reporters literally burst into applause when he was done. One grizzled newspaperman observed that "the press barely restrained its 'whoopees.'"
There've been no standing ovations -- yet -- with Obama, but there's no denying that many in the news media are clapping on the inside. Obviously, not everyone is swooning, as the news media aren't a monolith. And, yes, President Obama deserves his honeymoon. But honeymoons suggest a respectful partnership of equals. What we're seeing here is more like a gaggle of aging love-struck groupies following Jon Bon Jovi around.
Though no one's idea of an objective reporter, MSNBC's Chris Matthews does express the euphoria nicely. On "The Tonight Show," he told Jay Leno that the Obamas "are really cool. They are Jack and Jackie Kennedy when you see them together. They are cool. And they're great looking, and they're cool and they're young, and they're -- everything seems to be great. I know I'm selling them now. I'm not supposed to sell, OK? ... But the fact is, I wouldn't be an honest reporter if I didn't tell you what the spiritual experience is like of being in a Barack Obama rally."
On Inauguration Day, Matthews came a hair's breadth from shrieking like a teenage girl at the Beatles' debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show." As is often the case with crushes, what Matthews seems to like best about Obama is how he makes Matthews feel about himself -- and his network. "This is the network that has opened its heart to change, to change and its possibilities," Matthews gushed.
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