Most of us outside the bubble think that the mainstream media is pretty pro-Obama. We remember all those comparisons to Lincoln and FDR in the heady early days of the administration.
But apparently that’s not how it looks from the Oval Office; the president thinks he’s not getting a fair shot from the press. The New York Times reports:
The news media have played a crucial role in Mr. Obama’s career, helping to make him a national star not long after he had been an anonymous state legislator. As president, however, he has come to believe the news media have had a role in frustrating his ambitions to change the terms of the country’s political discussion.
One former White House staffer moaned that the reflexive anti-administration slant of the media undercut the president at every turn: “The feeling was, ‘man, we can’t catch a break,’ ” he told the Times, describing the White House view of the press in 1979.
Some of President Obama’s complaints about the media reflect criticisms about the MSM that we’ve made here: there’s too much horse race reporting looking at who is winning and who is losing, and not enough serious thought and reflection goes into the news. The press needs to do a better job getting serious ideas and reflective coverage out there into the news flow. We’re trying to do it here here at Via Meadia, and it isn’t easy — and we understand how public officials in both parties can be frustrated by a media climate that focuses on ‘gotcha’ journalism, who’s up and who’s down, and has a very narrow bandwidth when it comes to helping the public understand the tough and complicated issues of the day.
But overall, this president still benefits far more than most of his predecessors from a press that generally likes him, agrees with his policies on most key issues, and deeply hopes that he will be re-elected in November. Few incumbents have ever had this kind of support from the Fourth Estate; few challengers have ever had such a hard time getting a break from the media as Governor Romney.
Moreover, some of President Obama’s complaints are unsettling. As he sees it, the liberal narrative is “the truth”, competing narratives are “factually incorrect”, and the press has a duty not to treat truth on an equal basis with falsehood. By this standard, any article that doesn’t heap scorn and disdain on those who disagree with him is biased; “balance” is an illusion when it comes to subjects about which liberals are passionately convinced that they are right.
It just isn’t that simple. Political disagreements are often about values and context—about which facts are important and should move policy rather than about whether side A or side B is right about some specific point. There’s a totalitarian impulse and a deep hostility to the concept of public debate lurking not far below the surface here, and it’s a little unsettling that President Obama seems to think there are a lot of public policy issues on which the liberal viewpoint is True and the conservative viewpoint is Dumb.
Liberals are often some of the least tolerant people when they are sure they are right; like the Massachusetts Puritans from whom, culturally and intellectually, much of modern American liberalism descends, they believe in freedom for God’s Elect — and force to make the heathen and the unenlightened Do Right.
The Via Meadia bottom line here: it’s a good thing we have a Constitution and laws that limit the ability of the great and the good to decide what the press is free to say. If even Barack Obama, the most coddled and cosseted politician in modern American history, thinks the media is against him, it’s clear that no politician can ever be trusted to umpire the press.