Bozell Column: Obama, The Media's Favorite Autocrat
Everyone proposes drinking games for the State of the Union speech. But it’s not just the president that can drive you to drink. It’s the opportunistic media elites deciding which branches of government have too much power, depending on which branches the Democrats presently control.
After a lot of stalemate in 2013, the partisan media think it’s high time for the executive branch to go completely around the legislative branch. They think that now that Congress has proven itself unwilling to provide Barack Obama with the historical greatness he deserves, they should and must be driven around like roadkill. They’ll have no talk of an imperial presidency, let alone autocracy.
On the morning of the speech, ABC’s Jonathan Karl was touting how “the President will announce that he is increasing by nearly $3 an hour the minimum wage on all new federal contracts, acting where he can without Congress." Without any criticism about shredding the balance of powers, Karl announced like a publicist that the president is “promising to work with Congress where he can, but showing there are things he can do on his own as well."
Eight years ago, when Newsweek still mattered, the magazine’s Jonathan Alter cried out: “We're seeing clearly now that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator, or in his own mind, no doubt, like Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.” Eleanor Clift followed up a few months later. Vladimir Putin “is perceived to be an effective dictator. What we have in this country is a dictator who’s ineffective."
New York Times drama critic Wilborn Hampton honored a play on Prometheus by oozing that “the fifth-century B.C. lessons about the abuse of power by an autocratic ruler who runs roughshod over anyone who disagrees with him are not lost on a 21st-century audience. Just plug in names from today’s headlines for any of the characters.”
Two terms ago, New York Times reporters were winning Pulitzer Prizes and turning out adversarial books with titles like Charlie Savage’s “The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy,” which exposed “how a group of true believers, led by Cheney, set out to establish near-monarchical executive powers.” Eric Lichtblau wrote “Bush’s Law: The Remaking of American Justice,” which railed against “secret programs and policies that tore at the constitutional fabric of the country.”
James Risen penned “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,” which revealed a “two-front war that President Bush is now fighting,” one abroad and one “at home against Congress and the Supreme Court, as his administration is increasingly reined in from its abuses.”
Now imagine how many Pulitzer prizes and dire-warning books the Times staff is turning out about Barack Obama’s “war at home against Congress” or his “near-monarchical excecutive powers” on drones or Guantanamo. None. Instead, David Sanger wrote “Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power,” which proclaimed how Obama outshined Bush, “attempting to preserve America’s influence with a lighter, defter touch.”
Ask how many media stars have launched crusading reports packed with outrage over Obama’s obvious failure to please the Left by releasing gaggles of Guantanamo detainees, or his self-evident affinity for drone attacks in the Middle East. You might find that kind of report on al-Jazeera America, but nobody watches that propaganda channel. The major media might notice an occasional radical protester, but their heart is always clearly with the president’s “surprising use of power.”
Instead of channeling Cindy Sheehan types, the New York Times worried on its front page this week that a quick departure from Afghanistan could cause a loss of bases for drone strikes. On the domestic front, their “Political Memo” was headlined “For Obama, Investing In Brighter Futures Remains a Tough Sell.” That’s their ludicrous terminology for more socialist “investment” in infrastructure and education bureaucrats (and perhaps presidentially dictated minimum-wage hikes) – “investing in brighter futures.”
It’s gotten so desperate to generate Happy News on Obama’s behalf that when Sen. Ted Cruz went on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday to say “Let me tell you something that is deeply concerning, the abuse of power from this administration,” CBS sliced that criticism out of its program. Putting the words “abuse of power” anywhere near Team Obama in a sentence is an invitation to censorship by our allegedly anti-autocracy “news” media.