Krauthammer: 'Supine' Media Lulled Arrogant Obama into Race Muddle

President Obama's experience last year earning fawning press coverage as a “genius” on race relations lulled him into assuming “he can say anything on race and is so smart that he will be untouchable,” columnist Charles Krauthammer postulated Friday night on FNC in suggesting an explanation for why Obama so misunderstand how his remarks on Henry Louis Gates would ensnare him in controversy. Krauthammer opined: “A lot of the Obama presidency is a contest between his intelligence and his arrogance” and he thought “he can say anything on race and is so smart that he will be untouchable.”

One reason for that, Krauthammer contended, is that after he “gave the famous speech in Philadelphia” on race in March of 2008, in which “he did not renounce Jeremiah Wright” as “he blamed everybody for racism -- black, white and grandmother, except himself,” he nonetheless “was hailed by a supine press as the second coming of Lincoln at Cooper Union. So after, that you think you can say anything on race and be hailed as a genius.”

Indeed, hours after Obama's Tuesday, March 18, 2008 address, MSNBC's Chris Matthews, NewsBusters recounted, praised it as “worthy of Abraham Lincoln” and also claimed it bypassed Martin Luther King Jr.'s “I Have a Dream” address as the “best speech ever given on race in this country.”

Matthews declared:

I think this is the kind of speech I think first graders should see, people in the last year of college should see before they go out in the world. This should be, to me, an American tract. Something that you just check in with, now and then, like reading Great Gatsby and Huckleberry Finn.
A giddy Matthews opened his show: “A divide as American as the Grand Canyon, a speech worthy of Abraham Lincoln. Let's play Hardball!”  

Another NewsBusters item, “'Extraordinary' Speech 'Gift' for 'Confronting Race' with 'Honesty,'” provided highlights of the media's subservience:
The ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts on Tuesday framed coverage of Barack Obama's speech, in reaction to the furor over the racist, paranoid and America-hating remarks of his long-time pastor, not by focusing on what it says about Obama's true views and judgment but by admiring his success in "confronting" the issue of "race in America" in an "extraordinary" speech. Indeed, both ABC and CBS displayed "Race in America" on screen as the theme to their coverage, thus advancing Obama's quest to paint himself as a candidate dedicated to addressing a serious subject, not explain his ties to racially-tinged hate speech. NBC went simply with "The Speech" as Brian Williams described it as "a speech about race."

In short, the approach of the networks was as toward a friend in trouble and they wanted to help him put the unpleasantness behind him by focusing on his noble cause. "Barack Obama addresses the controversial comments of his pastor, condemning the words but not the man," CBS's Katie Couric teased before heralding: "And he calls on all Americans to work for a more perfect union." On ABC, Charles Gibson announced: "Barack Obama delivers a major speech confronting the race issue head on, and says it's time for America to do the same." Reporting "Obama challenged Americans to confront the country's racial divide," Gibson hailed "an extraordinary speech."

NBC's Lee Cowan admired how "in the City of Brotherly Love, Barack Obama gave the most expansive and most intensely personal speech on race he's ever given," adding it reflected "honesty that struck his rival Hillary Clinton." On NBC, Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart asserted "it was a very important speech for the nation. It was very blunt, very honest" and so "a very important gift the Senator has given the country."
The media's excitement continued the next morning:
- ABC's GMA Lauds 'Historic' and 'Remarkable' Obama Speech
On Wednesday's Good Morning America, various hosts and reporters could barely restrain their glee and admiration for Senator Barack Obama's Tuesday speech about race and the incendiary comments of his pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Co-host Robin Roberts hyperbolically claimed that "some" believe "his speech was not only important for his campaign but also for the future of the country." In a tease for the program, she put the onus on America and asserted, "Barack Obama challenges voters and the country..."

Fellow co-host Chris Cuomo set up an "exclusive" interview with the presidential candidate by labeling the speech "historic." Nightline co-host Terry Moran, who talked to Obama, prefaced his segment by bubbling: "Well, as you know, one of the hardest things to do in American politics, in American society, is to talk honestly about race. And it's clear that's what Barack Obama was trying to do in that remarkable speech."
- CBS's Rodriguez: Obama's Speech 'A Defining Cultural Moment'
Wednesday's CBS Early Show devoted four segments to Obama's speech on race and the Jeremiah Wright controversy and that coverage began with a proclamation by co-host Maggie Rodriguez: "It's being called a defining cultural moment in America. Barack Obama speaks about America's racial stalemate, a moving moment, a political risk." Rodriguez went on to tease upcoming coverage of the speech by again emphasizing its "historic" nature: "It was without question a defining moment in American political history. But for an African-American presidential candidate who'd played down race in his campaign, this was a huge gamble politically."
Krauthammer, during the panel segment on the Friday, July 24 Special Report with Bret Baier on FNC:
It seems, to me, that a lot of the Obama presidency is a contest between his intelligence and his arrogance, and I think he thought, when he was asked that question Wednesday night, that he can say anything on race and is so smart that he will be untouchable.

And one reason is that he gave the famous speech in Philadelphia, the race speech, during the campaign, which, in fact, he did not renounce Jeremiah Wright, he blamed everybody for racism -- black, white and grandmother, except himself -- and was hailed by a supine press as the second coming of Lincoln at Cooper Union. So after, that you think you can say anything on race and be hailed as a genius. Well, he now understands that you can't get away with that forever, and he got really caught on this one.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center