In one of his latest attempts to get his face on every television network in America before the election, President Obama appeared on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart to plead his case to the hip, young, leftist voters who love that show. Obama claimed he had done so much, “We have done things that some folks don't even know about!”
In a more serious interview, Obama told the Los Angeles Times the economic mess he “inherited” required him to take so many rapid actions that he could not "communicate effectively to the public in any coherent way.”
This has to be the most ridiculous spin to emerge to explain the Why Republicans Massacred Us question: Barack Obama somehow failed to communicate his “accomplishments.” This man has been everywhere from MTV to CNBC to Univision to the entire NBC-Universal slate of channels selling his policies. And when he’s not there, the reporters do his bidding regardless. How can a man who was sold to us as an absolutely magic combination of Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt now suggest he was made “incoherent” by the economy?
First of all, in almost everything Obama did, the “inherited” economy always seemed like a lesser priority to other mountains he wanted to climb. That disinterest (also the disinterest in Afghanistan) was telling. But more importantly, perhaps no president in modern times has been granted more forums with more ring-kissing interviewers to explain himself. These people in no way ruined the effectiveness of his communications by asking hardball questions.
The only way Obama’s coherence would have been compromised would have been by the viewer being too distracted by the obsequiousness of the interviewer – from CNBC’s John Harwood marveling at Obama’s talent at fly-swatting to an awestruck Katie Couric asking “You're so confident, Mr. President, and so focused. Is your confidence ever shaken?”
There is another ridiculous narrative that might compete: try Governor Ed Rendell’s claim that “I think expectations were unreasonably high for Barack Obama.” But these are the expectations Obama set for himself. His own administration’s economists issued a report insisting that without lavishing almost $900 billion on “stimulus,” unemployment would rise above 9 percent in 2010. They also proclaimed that if Congress did Obama’s will, unemployment would remain under 8 percent.
Oops. Reality is harsh. Now the media are building an entirely different expectation: high unemployment is the “new normal,” and everyone should just accept it.
But if there were unreasonably high expectations for Obama, who set them most aggressively if not the fawning media that wanted him inaugurated by Thanksgiving 2008 because he could leap buildings in a single bound? Obama loved it. There was no humility, and certainly no effort to convince his media friends not to build those lofty expectations on cable news conclaves and the covers of the news magazines. He accepted the adoration from every fawning journalist that bowed before him.
Compare the effectiveness of Obama’s communications, aided and abetted by the “news” media, to the effectiveness of Obama’s toughest adversaries in the Tea Party movement. How could the Tea Party message succeed with the people if the effectiveness of their communications was pounded with mud and slime at every step? The media hammered continuously, like a negative commercial that won’t go away, declaring the Tea Party was racist, ignorant, and believers in every conspiracy theory that disparaged Barack Obama’s uniquely exotic and cosmopolitan appeal.
And yet, those homophobic racist rednecks utterly up-ended the Obama agenda, with all the so-called “objective” media’s hostile hot air blowing in their face.
All of this underlines the narrative that had unfolded before the Obama phenomenon came along: the decline of the Old Media’s stranglehold on the national conversation and the ascent of a New Media putting out stories and investigations that the Old Media refused to cover. Obama’s communications were not compromised by the networks jumping on the frauds of ACORN, or the science-twisting scandal of “Climategate,” or “stimulus” dollars being sent to 72,000 dead people. Those stories were ignored. If it threatened to throw a wrench into Obama’s juggernaut, the Old Media weren’t interested.
All Obama and his servile media can do now to save their leftist agenda is try to keep painting their Republican and Tea Party opponents as racist troglodytes who want to reinstall the Great Depression. Will it work any better in 2011 than it did in 2010?