Sixteen Months Later, Is Obama Finally Getting His Media Honeymoon?
By Al Giordano
No US president in my lifetime entered office so rudely hazed as Barack Obama. It’s been sixteen months of this: A bunch of privileged white folk with college degrees – you know, the ones who dominate the press and pundit corps – suddenly discovered a fun new board game. Let’s call it what it is: “The black guy can't possibly know how to govern so we will tell him what to do!”
This rebirth of know-it-all-ism took on distinct languages on the right and in some corners of the left, but it came from the same instinct: a profound unease that The President didn’t look or sound white, um, like previous commanders-in-chief.
The racist impulses of the tea partiers and others of the far right came unglued in full public view last week when Republican US Senate nominee Rand Paul in Kentucky – at the very moment he became the political face of the tea party “movement” by winning his party primary and by virtue of the nepotism of being “libertarian” Saint Ron Paul’s spawn - actually called for allowing private businesses to discriminate against Americans based on their skin color. Then he backpedaled and claimed not to mean it all the dozens of times he had said it over so many years.
That tendency has also manifested in some corners of the left, but it played out differently because unlike those on the right, its adherents felt a sense of entitlement to tell Obama what to do. And when Obama ignored the self-appointed counselors of left and right, some on the left took it personally. That’s when it really got vicious. “What? How dare he not follow MY advice!” At that point a gaggle of them lost their heads altogether, because hell hath no fury like a know-it-all blogger scorned, especially one who thinks everything is about him or her.
Yet for sixteen months, denied the media honeymoon that every other president always had in his first year in office,The President has been one hundred percent unflappable. He has not lost his cool or blown his temper in public, not even once. Instead, Obama set to work cueing up his legislative priorities and shepherding them, one at a time, through a difficult Congress, especially hard in the Senate where 40 Republicans plus any one or two conservative Democrats could, as a minority, block the 100-member chamber from voting on any proposed law. And on every single law he proposed or backed, he won passage. Let me repeat that: Every single one. In baseball terms, Obama has batted 1.000. He hasn’t struck out once. Not yet. In a funny way, that infuriates his naysayers even more.
Whether one agrees with Obama’s positions or not, one has to give credit that is due: He walks to his own drumbeat and step by step has gotten big things accomplished.
After all, even in frat house hazing rituals, if the guy being hazed endures it with grace, he has to be invited into the fraternity. In that sense some of the current serial hazers have shown less class than frat boys.
Suddenly – and I suppose the Rand Paul implosion pinpricked some white liberal consciences to contribute to their sudden turnaround, because it made it clear just how much of the American dysfunction is about race – some journalism and opinion column insiders have begun to consider the cumulative whole of President Obama’s first sixteen months in office and do some very simple math.
David Leonhardt’s Friday New York Times piece – “A Progressive Agenda to Remake Washington” - connected the dots:
With the Senate’s passage of financial regulation, Congress and the White House have completed 16 months of activity that rival any other since the New Deal in scope or ambition. Like the Reagan Revolution or Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, the new progressive period has the makings of a generational shift in how Washington operates.
First came a stimulus bill that, while aimed mainly at ending a deep recession, also set out to remake the nation’s educational system and vastly expand scientific research. Then President Obama signed a health care bill that was the biggest expansion of the safety net in 40 years. And now Congress is in the final stages of a bill that would tighten Wall Street’s rules and probably shrink its profit margins.
If there is a theme to all this, it has been to try to lift economic growth while also reducing income inequality...
This morning, columnist and economist Paul Krugman – one of the earliest “Obama must do as I say” lecturers – told the nation what New Yorker media insiders, due to their proximity to Wall Street sources, have discovered. That big business is hysterical over the President now because, contrary to the anti-Obama talking points that have blabbered on for sixteen months, the President’s administration and policies have had the effect of policing corporate America for the first time in decades. The party of the elites begun under Reagan and continued through two Bushes and a Clinton, is palpably over. Krugman writes:
So here’s how it is: They’re as mad as hell, and they’re not going to take this anymore. Am I talking about the Tea Partiers? No, I’m talking about the corporations.
Much reporting on opposition to the Obama administration portrays it as a sort of populist uprising. Yet the antics of the socialism-and-death-panels crowd are only part of the story of anti-Obamaism, and arguably the less important part. If you really want to know what’s going on, watch the corporations.
How can you do that? Follow the money — donations by corporate political action committees…
...63 percent of spending by banks’ corporate PACs has gone to Republicans, up from 53 percent last year. Securities and investment firms, traditionally Democratic-leaning, are now giving more money to Republicans. And oil and gas companies, always Republican-leaning, have gone all out, bestowing 76 percent of their largess on the G.O.P.
Corporate America, however, really, truly hates the current administration. Wall Street, for example, is in “a state of bitter, seething, hysterical fury” toward the president, writes John Heilemann of New York magazine.
Heilemann’s essay “Obama is from Mars, Wall Street is from Venus,” likewise was the result of his proximity, as a New Yorker, to the big money hornet’s nest. He basically says as much:
One night not long ago, over dinner with ten executives in the finance industry, I heard the president described as “hostile to business,” “anti-wealth,” and “anti-capitalism”; as a “redistributionist,” a “vilifier,” and a “thug.”
So, woo hoo!, right? It turns out that all along the President has been putting the screws on Wall Street even while he’s been polite in tone to it. (That’s what we Italian-Americans have long called “smiling while sticking the knife in.”)
All this, of course, has Obama’s real base breathing a big exhale of relief, like the 347 Daily Kos bloggers who recommended a diary today extolling this sudden shift in the Conventional Wisdom acknowledging that, hey, maybe the black guy is even better at governing than all those white guys who preceded him!
But if you want an idea of how angry this change in the political winds is making the dwindling “Obama must do as I say” grouposcule, and you have the stomach for tantrum overdrive, scroll some of the earliest comments on that highly recommended diary: the same hyena pack of a dozen or two poutrage addicts that have led the Obama Hazing Society for sixteen months are besides themselves now. They can’t stand the new recognition that Obama has angered Wall Street and that his presidency has already broken historic barriers for defeating special interests and getting progressive change done.
One would think that true liberals and progressives, especially those who were skeptical at first, would be truly happy, and truth is that most are. So what’s wrong with the Eeyores? Well, they’ve been proved wrong (again) and that always gives them road rage. And some are now personally embarrassed and are beginning to catch some overdue blowback for their tantrumism.
One of them is Open Left’s front-pager Paul Rosenberg, who for sixteen months has sprung a toxic leak that, if you could take a photo of it, would look a lot like that BP oil rig in the Gulf.
Nine days ago, Rosenberg had the trademark poor timing of making this looney tunes declaration a week before the rest of the media and blogger world came to the realization that in Obama, something truly historic is going on:
"...no one wants to face up to just how truly terrible a president Barack Obama is turning out to be--we're talking potential Herbert Hoover territory, folks."
Excuse me while I reply: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
Rosenberg really stepped in his own bullshit, again. That blog post was penned with mid-May’s poutrage-of-the-week, when some like Rosenberg were shopping their latest proposed anti-Obama crusade. Then it was against Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan (that particular arson attempt snuffed out pretty quickly, as Kagan now coasts to Senate approval and Poutrage Inc. has gone looking for new reasons to incite fear and loathing of all things Obama). But now, suddenly, Rosenberg – much like Rand Paul - is being taken to task for the written record of his bizarro world claims. What goes around comes around, and bloggers who live by spitting up their own bile in public should expect to get cookies tossed upon them now and then, too. Live by the critique, die by the critique, and no critic has the right to whine when criticized.
Jamelle Bouie at Think Progress serves up the just desserts:
I need help understanding how OpenLeft’s Paul Rosenberg can credibly argue that Barack Obama has manically embraced “discredited conservative ideas” and “helped enormously in extended the hegemonic continuity of [the] Nixon-Reagan Eara. [Emphasis his]” More specifically, I need help understanding this strange impulse among liberals of Rosenberg’s ilk to understate or dismiss most of the work Congress and President Obama have done over the past sixteen months, especially when — as David Leonhardt noted in yesterday’s New York Times — it’s been a burst of activity that “rivals any other since the New Deal in scope or ambition.”
Right now, liberals (again, of Rosenberg’s ilk) ought to spend less time lamenting Obama’s aversion to ideological orthodoxy and more time working to defend and improve progressive governance
That led to an indignant response this morning from Open Left owner Chris Bowers who claims that Bouie had attacked everyone at Open Left. My gawd. Can they be that self important? Do they always think it is about them even if it is just about one of them? To wit:
Excuse me? The Open Left community ("Rosenberg's ilk") has collectively engaged in a significant amount of direct action attempting to improve progressive governance over the past sixteen months…
Leveling such a charge against Open Left requires lumping us into some pre-set stereotype of do-nothing, left-wing whiners that belies an almost total lack of familiarity with Open Left.
But Bouie didn’t say anything about “the Open Left community.” He wrote about Rosenberg and his “ilk” which, in proper English, would describe only those who agree with him.
If Bowers shares Rosenberg’s view that “Barack Obama is turning out to be… a terrible president… in Herbert Hoover territory, folks,” well then, yes, that would define him as “ilk.” But since Bowers and some other Open Left front pagers have refrained from making such foolish expressions (Bowers, not too long ago, in March, was praised from this corner for coming to public grips with very much the opposite view when he wrote “Obama developed new messaging that was more convincing than the likes used by myself… or anyone else on the left who was making contrary arguments” – does he likewise think I was praising Rosenberg and “the Open Left community” when I said something nice about him?) no reasonable person thinks that Bouie was criticizing everybody on the blog where Rosenberg is provided his own public port-a-potty with glass walls.
But all of that is a sideshow; a car wreck that I admit I slow down and stretch my neck out the window to see the gore of it.
What has really just happened is conventional media wisdom has begun to shift, and it looks to me like President Obama is about to get that honeymoon from the media that all the white previous presidents got in their first year in office, only a year and some months late.
And that works out real well, too, since it is this year when midterm Congressional elections will be held in the United States. Sometimes it makes sense to save the honeymoon for the second anniversary.
It won’t last – no media honeymoon does – but it might well endure through November, which would be another triumph in political timing with positive, real world, consequences.
Even if I didn’t like and admire this President, I would still be impressed by his temperament, and by the way he plays the political game. It is worthy of study, and I've learned lots of new tricks just by watching him in action, and taking notes.