Monday, January 26, 2009

Obama and the Establishment press, week 1

"They can't stop loving him/It's useless to say ..."

How is our national press doing on their first week of Obama's administration?

Here's Mark Shields, alleged liberal and avowed admirer of the bold Maverick John McCain, on the quality-TV PBS Newshour 01/23/09:

JIM LEHRER: Much has been made today in the newspapers, at least, about Obama's changed the whole approach on the war, quote, "war on terror." Do you agree with that? I mean, with Guantanamo, but also interrogation enhancements and other things?

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, he has. The first thing he did, which -- beyond honoring the pledge he made repeatedly about Guantanamo -- and I would remind our listeners and everybody else that that was John McCain's first promise, running for president, "I will close Guantanamo." So, I mean, there was a consensus among the two nominees on that. [my emphasis]
The World's Greatest Saint, John McCain, on FOX News Sunday 01/25/09:

WALLACE: Let's turn to foreign policy. President Obama also moved in that area this week, announcing that — a process to start closing Guantanamo Bay within a year, to review all of the interrogation and detention techniques. ...

MCCAIN: ... I believe that announcing the closing of Guantanamo without addressing the other really difficult aspects of this issue — look, Guantanamo has become a symbol and it should be closed, in my view.

It's Abu Ghraib. It's mistreatment of prisoners. It's all the things that have damaged America's image in the world.

But we need to have a process that is — replaces the military commissions. By the way, the military commissions were finally beginning to function, and so I'm sorry they're put on hold.

We need to decide what you do with people that we can't return to the countries that they came from. We need to decide what to do with people we know if we release them they will go out, as we've just seen — a recent example of a guy who became a high-ranking member of Al Qaida. We can't continue to release people who are going to be leaders of Al Qaida.

So we've got to work through that. And to just announce the closure of Guantanamo without addressing these other issues, I think, is not the best way to approach it.

But finally, where are you going to send them? Where are you going to send them? That decision I would have made before I'd announced the closure, because I don't know of a state in America that wants them in their state. It's going to — you think Yucca Mountain is a NIMBY [not in my back yard] problem? Wait till you see this one. [my emphasis]
Their love for that bold Maverick McCain is never quenched!

Aside from the fact that he wouldn't have closed Guantanamo before he solved problems he defines as unsolvable, that he repeats the Republican Party's demagogic scare slogan about releasing all those scary brown people, that he approves of the military commissions that Obama has put on hold and which can accept evidence based on torture (which all Big Pundits know the Maverick devoutly opposes!) - in other words, other than the fact that he criticizes everything that Obama has actually done on closing Guantanamo, the Great Maverick agrees with Obama on closing Guantanamo.

I'm curious as to what extent the collapse of the news media is a specifically American story. The entertainment corporations that control most TV news have succeeded into turning news into a variety of entertainment. And the herd instincts and Borg-like mental functioning of our press corps has done the rest. Despite 24/7 yammering on cable TV and Republican hate radio, the market for hard news is being badly underserved by the existing (so-called ) news media.

After their bizarre freakout over the nonexistent implications of Obama's nonexistent ties to the Blagojevich scandal, it comes as no surprise that the mainstream press creeped and hobbled their way through Obama's first week as President.

Here's another symptomatic example. Tom Ricks, who has actually been doing some good journalism for the New York Times, says on his Foreign Policy blog that the Washington Post's neoconservative, former psychiatrist columnist Charles Krauthammer "delivers a surprisingly insightful analysis of why Obama's inaugural speech wasn't aiming for eloquence". For Krauthammer, that would indeed be surprising.

But when I read the referenced column, Obama's Inaugural Surprise Washington Post 01/23/09, it turns out to be a recitation of the standard Republican position of the moment, one large being echoed by the rest of the punditocracy: Obama is dumping those dirty hippie blogger libruls and all those campaign promises he made and looks like he's going to govern like a Republican. The Inaugural speech wasn't quite perfect in Krauthammer's eyes, though. It still contained the "the mushy internationalism of his still-bizarre Berlin adventure."

In the Beltway Village, that passes for "a surprisingly insightful analysis." That explains a great deal of our recent history.

Jameson Foser in his regular Media Matters column, Media menu: Scrutiny, with a side order of sound judgment 01/23/09, provides a very good framing for the difference between conservative/Republican media criticism and liberal media criticism. Noting that there's every sign that the press will be much more critical of Obama than they were of our Glorious Leader Bush, Liberator of Peoples and Scourge of the Heathen, he writes:

Which is not to say that the media should treat Barack Obama the way they treated George Bush for much of his presidency. That's a key difference between progressive media critics and those on the right -- we want the media to do their jobs better, while conservatives are not particularly fond of the concept of journalism and won't be happy unless the media act as the propagandists of the conservative movement.
Put less eloquently, liberal critics want the media to be a pain in the rear to everyone while using good judgment and sound journalistic standards. Conservatives just want the media to cheer for Republicans.

And here are a few other notable pieces on the media and the developing Republican lines of attack:

Joan Walsh, Some things just don't change Salon 01/25/09

Bob Somerby, The Daily Howler 01/26/09

Jameson Foser, Politico's Thrush invents Pelosi controversy County Fair blog 01/26/09

Peter Wallsten, Republicans step up criticism of Obama by Peter Wallsten Los Angeles Times 01/26/09

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