In the immediate aftermath of the 2008 election, when Barack Obama had just been declared our next president, the media was understandably jubilant. They had suffered through eight long years of a president whose decisions, policies, and mere demeanor went so far against their deeply-held liberal sensibilities, that their coverage of him often reached the level of derangement.
Yes, their day had finally come. They had found their messiah. A youthful, charismatic, true-believing liberal was the country’s new leader. History had been made. The nation’s first African American president was going to be sworn in, and the media knew they had played a substantial role in making all that happen.
Amongst all the celebrating and congratulatory back-slapping, there was one member of the liberal media elite, however, who absorbed the victory a bit differently than the rest. While his colleagues were still floating along the radiant arch of a euphoric rainbow that emitted tranquil whispers of ‘hope’ and ‘change’, Newsweek’s Evan Thomas acted as if he had suddenly been slapped awake from a deep, months-long hypnosis.
Speaking to Charlie Rose, Thomas (whose publication was a staunch advocate for Barack Obama), surprisingly expressed some rare misgivings about the president-elect. “There is a slightly creepy cult of personality about all this,” he said in reference to the Obama phenomenon. “It — it — it just makes me a little uneasy that he’s so singular. He’s clearly managing his own spectacle. He’s a deeply manipulative guy.” He went on to say, “He had — he has the self-awareness to know that this creature he’s designed isn’t necessarily a real person.”
If only people like Thomas would have taken notice of such things BEFORE the election. Media laziness and embarrassing infatuation let a man with no leadership, management, or business experience become the leader of the free world. He hadn’t been properly vetted or firmly challenged. An individual who essentially never held a job outside of the halls of academia and politics (where he never produced any legislative achievements) excelled to the presidency solely on the power of his charisma, feel-good speeches, and endless media hype. A larger than life persona – that was the winning formula.
Evan Thomas’ analysis came way too late, but he described the Obama spectacle perfectly with his “cult of personality” comment. For people my age, who graduated high school in the early 1990’s, that term holds some pop-culture significance beyond its text book definition of a circumstance that arises when, as Wikipedia describes it, “an individual who uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise.” It was also the title of a popular rock song by the band, Living Colour. The song’s lyrics, if you listen to them now, so eerily describe Barack Obama (even down to the mention of a Nobel Prize) that you have to wonder if the band had somehow managed to get a hold of a Delorean and traveled twenty years into the future for their inspiration.
More astonishing than the victory Obama’s cult of personality gave him in 2008 is the fact that the cult is still very much alive today. I never thought it would have survived his entire first term (even with an adoring media) unless his policies had proven to be a resounding success. They, of course, did not. In fact, they took us in exactly the opposite direction. Yet the cult has retained most of its disciples, and there’s a real possibility that its shelf-life will be extended by four years.
How can this be? I think the answer goes back to a brilliant remark Vice Presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, made during his speech at the Republican National Convention: “President Obama is the kind of politician who puts promises on the record, and then calls that the record.”
Truer words have never been spoken.
If you listen to what the president says in public appearances, it’s as if he hasn’t been the incumbent for nearly four years. He repeats promises that have already been broken, and speaks of his ideas for the country as if they are new, and haven’t already resulted in failure. He presents this empty rhetoric as his record. One has to only listen to his recent stump speeches for examples.
The president has been traveling around the country and actually telling cheering crowds (with a straight face) that we need to bring down our national debt, and that he’s going to do it. It’s the same message he delivered when he was campaigning four years ago. If you’ll remember, he promised back then to cut the deficit in half. The problem is that he has been in office for nearly four years and he has done absolutely nothing to achieve anything that remotely resembles that goal. Not only has he shown less fiscal discipline than any president in our history, but he has added far more money (over $5 trillion) to our national debt in a single term than any other president has in two terms. He has spent more of our money than our first 42 presidents… combined! And if that wasn’t bad enough, he has demagogued and killed every serious solution offered up by congress to address the national debt problem, while offering no solutions of his own.
Over the past couple of weeks, he’s been touting to crowds his willingness to reach across the aisle to work with Republicans to fix our problems. He even joked in Ohio on Monday that he’d be willing to “wash their cars” in order to work together. Stuff like that always sounds great, but the reality is that he’s had FOUR YEARS to do this, and as Bob Woodward’s new book describes in great detail, Obama has never made any serious attempt to work with Republicans. Beyond that, he’s repeatedly blamed the Republicans for all of our country’s problems, despite the fact that they had no power during his first two years in office, and currently only hold one branch of congress.
He mocks the Republicans’ claims that tax cuts will help the economy grow, when just three years ago, he was making this very same case himself.
He complains about how small and vindictive our politics are while refusing to denounce his super PAC for accusing his opponent, Mitt Romney, of killing a cancer victim!
He says these things without a hint of apprehension. They’re even applause lines for him. It seems unfathomable that he can escape political blow-back for such comments, but he does because there is no media appetite to hold him accountable for his own words. Aside from outlets like FOX News and conservative radio, the media lets him effectively separate himself from his record, and run his campaign on little more than hope, change, and pure hypocrisy.
Imagine if George W. Bush’s 2004, re-election stump-speeches included lines like, “War is never the answer” or “Democracy is not something we should be promoting abroad.” Do you think for a second that the national media wouldn’t have been excoriating him for his gall, or even questioning his sanity?
President Obama not only goes largely unchallenged for his hypocrisy, but also for the accuracy of what he touts as his achievements.
Obama often brags about the four million jobs being created under his watch. That sounds like a big number to most people. The problem is that the media rarely explains to Americans that the number doesn’t include the number of jobs that were lost. More importantly, they don’t explain how obscenely low that number is in context with historical recession recoveries.
Obama does the same thing when talking about energy and gas prices. He likes to point out that domestic oil-drilling has increased during his presidency. What the media fails to explain is that it has only increased on private land where the government has no control. Through Obama’s policies, there is less government-land oil-drilling going on in this country than before he took office.
The media not only shies away from providing the proper context, but they set the bar so incredibly low for any measure of success from the Obama administration, that the president can effectively hail sub-standard and even downright poor results as major achievements. Whenever there’s a mild, positive uptick in an economic number, the media tone is that a corner has been turned, and that we’re on the right track… And when that uptick disappears a couple of weeks later, you don’t hear much about it.
Many once-controversial policies (aka policies that were controversial under the Bush administration) receive practically no media attention now that Obama has adopted them. When’s the last time you heard anyone in the media bring up the Guantanamo Bay detention camp? Four years ago, its existence was a framed by Democrats and the media as a moral collapse of American values and a major recruitment tool for Islamic terrorists. Bush’s position – that he’d like to close it, but couldn’t due to lack of a better solution – was soundly rejected by critics. Candidate Obama even ran on the promise of closing down the facility, and pledged again to do so shortly after taking office. Yet, it’s still open and active today, with Obama’s rationale now parroting Bush’s, and the media couldn’t care less. It’s been years since any news organization have given publicity to Gitmo critics, if there even are any more.
What has the media paid close attention to during this election cycle? It certainly hasn’t been the shocking number of Americans on the government dole, but it has been Mitt Romney’s in-artful description of the problem on hidden-camera. It hasn’t been the high unemployment rate of female workers, but it has been a fabricated War on Women controversy and Todd Akin’s idiotic comments. It hasn’t been the Obamacare taxes, but it has been Mitt Romney’s tax records, which are always good for a front-page headline or fifty. Oh, and of course we can’t forget about all of that award-worthy, investigative reporting on that pathological liar, Paul Ryan, who thought he could get away with citing the wrong marathon running-time from twenty years ago.
Now, media bias against conservatives is nothing new, and it’s not going to change anytime soon. Complaining about it isn’t going to do much good as far as the November election is concerned. The Romney campaign needs to find a way to deal with it, and do their best to work around the media. Their biggest challenge, though, will be to break through Obama’s cult of personality and slap the country awake to the realities of what is on the line when it comes to our country’s future.
When you strip away Obama’s record, you have a personable, charismatic charmer who sounds great on the microphone – a viable candidate. But when you strip away his cult of personality, you’re forced to recognize the reality that our nation is in deep decline, and may very well be broken beyond repair if drastic changes aren’t made very soon.