There's something very curious -- even laughable -- about watching the media assemble to offer President Obama a grade after the first 100 days. They weren't exactly a team of dispassionate scientists in a lab. They continue to be what they've been all along -- a rolling gaggle of Obama cheerleaders -- only before it was a campaign, and now it's an administration. So now they're assessing whether their awe-inspiring historic candidate still glows with the luster of victory. Hmm ... let's see. They applied the luster, they boasted of the luster, and you can bet your bottom dollar they'll continue doing both.
Remember Chris Matthews, and apply his pre-inauguration pledge across the media: "I want to do everything I can to make this thing work, this new presidency work."
Three months have made zero difference in the major media's ardor. They were head over heels in love on Jan. 20, and they're still head over heels in love on April 29. Just as before, Obama is automatically destined for historical greatness: "Obama's start has been the most impressive of any president since FDR," crowed Time magazine. One can also say, "Obama has been the most socialist since FDR."
Time ran a long column of puffery from Joe Klein, who adored Obama's radical change from government-asphyxiating Reaganism and his long view of the sweep of history, as opposed to our "quick-fix, sugar-rush, attention-deficit society of the postmodern age." Klein declared, "The legislative achievements have been stupendous -- the $789-stimulus bill, the budget plan that is still being hammered out (and may, ultimately, include the next landmark safety-net program, universal health insurance)."
"Stupendous." That's what socialists think. Conservatives call it horrendous. You can quickly see whose side the media favor -- the multiplication of "landmark safety nets" of socialism, from the government takeover of health care to the imposition of onerous global-warming taxes.It doesn't matter to the media if the Democrats impose them with the "nuclear option" of a reconciliation procedure that requires only 51 votes in the Senate, not 60. Yes, they savaged Bush for even thinking about using it. But it doesn't matter if Obama is a bare-fanged partisan that rams through massive new government intervention with little time for debate. It doesn't matter that no one read the biggest "stimulus" bill in history before voting on it. Results are all that count.
Republicans barely exist in this narrative, but when they surface, it's only so they can be severely beaten. Klein's Obama action movie portrayed our president/hero as leading "a triumph of vision over substance," complete with the usual spin that Obama is "lucky" to have Republican enemies/villains snidely unleashing "gimmicks and hissy fits," whose rants "seem both ungracious and unhinged."
The long Klein hymn of praise was only the beginning. They paired the four-page column with 10 pages of adoring photographs on his "historic start," including such supposedly historic photos as "Obama plays with a football," "Obama congratulates his daughter [Sasha] on her ability to navigate the building," "Obama ... greets his daughter [Malia] as she talks about her school day," and a photo of an "intimate moment" of Barack dancing with Michelle as "Earth, Wind and Fire serenades them."
You can see their heartfelt investment in Team Obama simply in the effort they're putting out. Remember Time magazine's cover package on Bush's first 100 days in 2001? No. Maybe that's because there wasn't one.
None of the three broadcast networks aired a single story on whether the new president's economic policies were driving America toward European-style socialism. Not a single network news reporter used the term "socialist" to describe how his policies are shifting economic authority to the federal government. On only four occasions was the word "socialist" used on camera at all -- all by outside sources.
Network reporters never called Obama or his agenda even "liberal." NBC and CBS never used the word, and ABC only aired the term twice, citing Republicans using the word "liberal" to describe White House policies. On three of these major economic policies -- his banking bailout, his auto bailout and his plans for socialized medicine -- the networks never had a single soundbite from a conservative expert. After 100 days, the media still look more like the president's advertising team than the people's watchdog.