WaPo, Schizo: Obama Speech Shows 'Mastery of Medium'? Or He's Irrelevant?

While columnist Dana Milbank complained about "The irrelevancy of the Obama presidency" -- noting Republican laughter during the Obama speech (especially the line "This isn't political grandstanding") and Rep. James Moran (D-Va.) reading the newspaper -- TV critic Hank Stuever sat at the Tom Shales Desk of Obama Speech Puffery. "Obama reiterates his mastery of medium" was the headline on the front of the Style section.

Stuever's expert of choice on Obama was Lou Dobbs of Fox News, whom he plucked out for declaring it was "The best speech he's ever given." That's not exactly what Dobbs said on The O'Reilly Factor after the speech. Dobbs said it was the best speech of his presidency. But then Dobbs agreed with Bill O'Reilly that it was extremely political and not a transparent proposal:

O'REILLY: Yes, but you see, this was a speech to rally the folks. This was a Knute Rockne Gipper speech. I'm still and charged, even though, you don't like me anymore, I'm still here. I still care.

DOBBS: It was a great speech. Put me in, coach. I mean, he was terrific. It was his best speech, I think, of his presidency.

O'REILLY: Well, you see, I'm a little bit more cynical than you are. I didn't like the speech, because I recognize it's a speech is putting politics ahead of the working person.

DOBBS: Oh, absolutely.

O'REILLY: Because he's putting the Republicans in a corner, as I said. If they don't vote for what he wants, which is increasing taxation, Lou, that's what it's all about.

DOBBS: Yes.

O'REILLY: He's going in another door to do the same thing the Republicans in the House have rejected time and time again. The same thing. That's why I didn't like it. Look, I like the veteran hiring. I like the targeted stuff, but we don't have any money to pay for it, but in two weeks, Lou, he's going to tell us how he's going to do it. Why didn't he just wait for two weeks and put it all together?

DOBBS: It's interesting, and I have never ever heard of a president putting forward an address to the nation into installments. This is peculiar at best. Perhaps, it is being original and innovative, but peculiar is a word that comes to mind.

O'REILLY: Particularly because he's been in office now more than 2 1/2 years, and he's got this jobs act, and I like, as I said, portions of it. I'm glad that Speaker Boehner is considering it. I hope that they all sit down, but if he doesn't know how to pay for it, it's certainly not going to get pass. He goes, pass it now, pass it now, and I'll tell you in two weeks, how am I going to pay for it? What? (LAUGHTER)

DOBBS: Well, you know, it'd be the first time we've been told anything, really, when it comes to the direction of this economy that would -- from this government. Openness and transparency has not extended to economic policy, that has not extended to the Super Committee charged with reducing the deficits and debt by $1.5 trillion.

None of that stopped Stuever using Dobbs to puff up Obama:

Against all odds, this rapidly graying, tired-eyed, coming-up-short chief executive once more harnessed the power of this graying, demographically fogy-fied medium to prove that he knows how to use it. (Even if the scheduling landed him squarely in the “Jeopardy!” hour.) Obama’s American Jobs Act proposal may be a $447 billion what-if, filled with tax relief for all and ways to stimulate job growth, but Thursday’s speech should stand as one of his finest. This according to no less an authority than Fox News’s own Lou Dobbs, who concluded after the speech: “I have to say, it was the stemwinder of this president’s term in office. . . . The best speech he’s ever given.”

The most ridiculous part was Stuever claiming this speech was not political, meant to stoop out Obama's desperate standing in the polls. It was a "values speech."

At 32 minutes long, Obama’s address was more a values speech than a political one.

It was more about a man at the end of his rope who nevertheless still has to believe in something, talking as plainly as he could — more plainly than usual, plainer than plain; an urgent plea that was filled with specific proposals and an imploring to Americans to think about one another. “This isn’t class warfare. This is simple math. This is simple math.”

Near the end, it became the presidential equivalent of turning up the radio in your American car when “We Built This City” by Starship comes on.

“We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards,” he said. “This larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everyone’s money, let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own — that’s not who we are. That’s not the story of America.”

Obama hasn’t lost his ability to give some of the finest live presidential oratory that many of us channel-surfers have heard in our adult lifetimes.

Stuever was born in 1968, so he's skipping right over Ronald Reagan. At least after that gush, Stuever ended by acknowledging he may be more of an Obama fan than the rest of the country: "Not that anyone has to like him any more than they did before."
 

 

 

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis