The other bailout

Cheerleading media extend Obama limitless political capital.

obama speaks to crowd 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP)
obama speaks to crowd 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
By now, many in the American mainstream media (MSM) have admitted the obvious: Coverage of the recent US presidential campaign was heavily biased in favor of Barack Obama. Time magazine's Mark Halperin recently went so far as to call the MSM's performance "disgusting," admitting "extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage." And Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell related that readers "have been consistently critical of the lack of probing issues coverage and what they saw as a tilt toward Democrat Barack Obama." Howell's analysis? "My surveys, which ended on Election Day, show that they are right on both counts." Thanks. Now they tell us. But more worrisome than these comically day-late/dollar-short mea culpas are the implications of such one-sided coverage. American media may be in danger of slipping to a level akin to Israel's, where the press admits - and even justifies - coddling preferred politicians ("like an etrog," as famously conceded by one journalist). Admittedly, the American ideal of an objective, adversarial press has always been mostly myth, extolled by the MSM with delusional self-flattery. But it did exist to some extent, and its absence is an ominous development for American democracy: The same press that spent months cheerleading for Obama instead of reporting and investigating is now too invested in his success to be sufficiently critical when necessary. In truth, MSM retreat from objectivity reached its tipping point during the 2000 election controversy. Since then, there has been a poorly-disguised loathing of President George W. Bush by the MSM. Reporting that even pretended to be objective yet adversarial gave way to a hyper-critical, obstructionist style, painting everything Bush-related in the worst possible light. And that has repercussions for America. For example, reflexive MSM Bush-bashing has poisoned reporting on Iraq and the war on terror. The press obsessed hysterically over contextual trivialities such as Abu Ghraib, but seemed incapable of reporting the monumental string of military and political successes created by the "surge." The New York Times published classified secrets of the Bush administration's unquestionably legal national security activities - thus ruining their effectiveness. Government surveillance of foreign communications was routinely - inaccurately - sensationalized as "domestic spying" or "wiretapping." The press has played fast and loose with ultimately false stories and half-truths about torture, military abuses, "Gitmo," no-bid Halliburton contracts, Iraq intelligence and anything else to deligitimize the Bush administration - most of which could be debunked with about five minutes of research. It even gave undeserved attention to crackpot conspiracy theories alleging Bush administration complicity in 9/11. All the while, it barely notes that this administration, against all odds, has kept America safe from major terror attack for more than seven years. NOW THE problem is the reverse. Throughout the campaign, the MSM acted like hyperventilating teenage girls with a crush on Obama, complete with Chris Matthews, host of Hardball famously stating that "I felt a thrill going up my leg" as Obama spoke. Similarly, the love-struck press would not countenance any story that could damage Obama's image. Where was the MSM "hardball" coverage of Obama reneging on his explicit promise to use only public financing? The extent of his adherence to the black liberation theology of his church? His role in Chicago's notoriously corrupt political machine? Even the Washington Post's Howell admitted: "Obama deserved tougher scrutiny than he got, especially of his undergraduate years, his start in Chicago and his relationship with Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who was convicted this year of influence-peddling in Chicago. The Post did nothing on Obama's drug use as a teenager." (Cindy McCain's past prescription drug addiction, however, seemed to be fair game.) Having so thoroughly taken sides during the campaign, the MSM is now dangerously over-invested in Obama's success. Being human - and not known for their modesty - MSM personalities are unlikely to make themselves look foolish for their unmitigated Obama support. What this means in practical terms is that Obama will have tremendous leeway to do anything, and fail at anything, with little critical analysis from the press. The MSM have staked so much of their professional and reputational capital in his success that they will feel compelled to keep extending him additional political credit. For their own sakes, they cannot allow Obama to be perceived as a failure no matter what he actually does. They will be there to bail him out. This MSM behavior already is evident in the coverage of the unfolding scandal of the bribery auction to fill Obama's Senate seat. The names involved are a who's who of Obama's incestuous Chicago political world and include some of his top advisers. Though Obama originally denied that he or anyone from his staff ever spoke to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about the Senate appointment (itself a strange denial - why wouldn't he have some input into who fills his seat?), it now turns out that Obama chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel spoke to the governor some 21 times. Obama's campaign co-chairman, Jesse Jackson Jr., has been accused of offering over a half-million dollars in fund-raising for the seat. Obama's reportedly preferred candidate, adviser Valerie Jarrett, suddenly, inexplicably, took herself out of the running and was given a senior White House position instead. And yet, the MSM has averted its eyes from Obama's glaring connections with the scandal's cast of corrupt characters and hasn't asked him some obvious questions about his oddly categorical denial. Was he aware that there was felonious bribery being solicited? Did he do anything about it? Did he even report it? What did he know, and when did he know it? Nothing. The self-proclaimed press "watchdogs" won't even bark, tamed as they are by puppy-love and protection of their own reputational investment. Now, there isn't yet a shred of evidence implicating Obama or his staff. But that may only be because the MSM isn't looking, or even connecting the existing dots. Instead, they're relentlessly attacking only Blagojevich, discrediting everything from his hair to his sanity, ganging up to destroy the man who might tarnish their beloved. Instead of investigative reporting, the MSM has resorted to concocting entirely speculative innocent explanations for Obama, even though they have yet to learn what actually happened. This is neither healthy journalism nor healthy democracy. The Obama bailout has just begun. Where - if ever - will it end? The writer serves as counsel to Republicans Abroad Israel.