Commentary Magazine


Topic: 2012 Obama presidential campaign

Getting Obama Out of the Bubble

There is much to mock in the New York Times report on how President Obama’s obsession with his own press coverage has convinced him the media is not biased quite enough in his favor. But I come not to mock, but to offer some unsolicited advice to the president. The Times writes:

While former President George W. Bush and his aides liked to say they ignored the Fourth Estate, Mr. Obama is an avid consumer of political news and commentary. But in his informal role as news media critic in chief, he developed a detailed critique of modern news coverage that he regularly expresses to those around him….

Privately and publicly, Mr. Obama has articulated what he sees as two overarching problems: coverage that focuses on political winners and losers rather than substance; and a “false balance,” in which two opposing sides are given equal weight regardless of the facts.

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There is much to mock in the New York Times report on how President Obama’s obsession with his own press coverage has convinced him the media is not biased quite enough in his favor. But I come not to mock, but to offer some unsolicited advice to the president. The Times writes:

While former President George W. Bush and his aides liked to say they ignored the Fourth Estate, Mr. Obama is an avid consumer of political news and commentary. But in his informal role as news media critic in chief, he developed a detailed critique of modern news coverage that he regularly expresses to those around him….

Privately and publicly, Mr. Obama has articulated what he sees as two overarching problems: coverage that focuses on political winners and losers rather than substance; and a “false balance,” in which two opposing sides are given equal weight regardless of the facts.

That, to me, contains both the diagnosis and the cure. Obama’s campaign has been constructed almost entirely around petty issues and drummed-up controversies in an attempt to win each day or week’s news cycle without any substantive debate on many of these topics. We’ve seen this with the ridiculous “war on women” to the pro-Obama super PAC’s casual accusations of murder to the president’s refusal to disown Harry Reid’s debasing both the Senate and the presidential election with McCarthy-style rumormongering that apparently had the president’s blessing.

In other words, Obama’s “voracious” appetite for reporting he thinks to be utterly shallow has locked him into a behavioral pattern that mimics the mindset and attitude he swears he deplores. Though the Times doesn’t mean it as a compliment, the remark about Bush ignoring them is exactly that. Bush understood the media was not just biased against him, but militantly so, and conducted in a pack mentality that drained day-to-day reporting of any understanding of the larger picture.

So he read. A lot. Not the Times’s legendarily awful reporting, but hundreds of books instead. As Karl Rove recounted here, Bush was constantly reading–he read 95 books in 2006, apparently–and his reading list included a ton of non-fiction: history, politics, biography, etc.:

The reading competition reveals Mr. Bush’s focus on goals. It’s not about winning. A good-natured competition helps keep him centered and makes possible a clear mind and a high level of energy. He reads instead of watching TV. He reads on Air Force One and to relax and because he’s curious. He reads about the tasks at hand, often picking volumes because of the relevance to his challenges.

It’s beneficial to pay attention to the news, obviously. But Obama needs to get his head out of the horse race and into something substantive that can give him a bit more perspective. It might elevate his campaign too.

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Sleazy Super PAC Ad’s Claim Debunked

The pro-Obama Priorities USA ad that blames Mitt Romney for the death of a steeelworker’s wife is even sleazier than it initially sounded. CNN reports that the wife of former GST Steel employee Joe Soptic had health insurance through her own job, despite the ad’s claim that she lost her insurance when her husband was laid off (video via HotAir):

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The pro-Obama Priorities USA ad that blames Mitt Romney for the death of a steeelworker’s wife is even sleazier than it initially sounded. CNN reports that the wife of former GST Steel employee Joe Soptic had health insurance through her own job, despite the ad’s claim that she lost her insurance when her husband was laid off (video via HotAir):

The Obama campaign and the White House has refused to condemn the ad, even as they’re benefiting from its dishonest smears. On “Morning Joe” today, Obama’s campaign adviser Robert Gibbs filibustered for an entire segment as he was pressed to respond to the ad:

“The message is a little over the top. Can’t you admit that?” [Joe] Scarborough asked.

“I don’t know the specifics of this person’s case,” Gibbs said.

“What specifics would you like to know?” Time magazine’s Mark Halperin asked. Gibbs said he didn’t know the specifics of the woman’s health care coverage. It’s been reported Soptic’s wife had health care through another employer.

Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager, also declined to condemn the Priorities ad, and used a question about it to shine a negative light on Romney’s business record.

“You do know that we don’t have anything to do with Priorities USA,” Cutter said on CNN’s “Starting Point.” “By law, we’re not allowed to coordinate with them, and by law, we don’t have anything to do with their ads. I don’t know the facts of when Joe’s wife got sick or when she died. But as I said before, I do know the facts of what Mitt Romney did with GS Steel. I do know the facts of how Joe lost his job and his health care. The entire company went bankrupt. But Mitt Romney walked away with a pretty hefty profit.”

The Obama campaign has been warning for months that this election will be influenced by sleazy, false ads outsourced to third-party groups. They were right — and they’re the ones who are doing it.

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