IMMEDIATE RELEASE 29 October 2014
Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column, Founded 1932
Segmented news feeds biases and undermines Obama
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON – Whatever happens, it seems President Obama can’t catch a break from the grindingly bad news that has become a media staple. Whether it’s the onset of Ebola or the rise of ISIS, we look to Obama for answers, and when he takes too long to act, or he seems indecisive, he’s judged for lack of leadership.
This is not always fair, but as Democrats stand for election Tuesday, they are paying the price for Obama’s failure to command the stage when the country looks to him for leadership on big issues. It’s not his policies that are the problem. The Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as Obamacare, is taking its place alongside Social Security and Medicare as an important part of the safety net. It alone is enough to secure Obama’s legislative legacy.
On a range of issues, when Obama’s critics are asked what they would do that he’s not doing, they come up blank. Not even the most hawkish Republicans are calling for sending U.S. troops back into the Middle East in large numbers. On Ebola, Obama has remained cool and steady while the governors of New York and New Jersey gave into panic, ordered draconian quarantine measures, only to back away after receiving pressure from the medical community and the White House.
Cool and steady, however, is not what plays well on the cable news shows, at least not anymore. The economy is growing and the unemployment rate has come down significantly, but that’s not what anybody is talking about, least of all Obama. Has there ever been a president as woefully incapable of making his own case as Obama? It took former President Clinton at the Democratic National Convention to convince Democrats that Obama has a record of accomplishment they can be proud of.
A fractured electorate will go to the polls on Tuesday wanting to send a message of dissatisfaction and disappointment to the Democrats, yet not wanting to give the Republicans a vote of confidence. That’s a major reason why the races are so tight in key states. Whatever the outcome, an equally fractured and segmented media will render its judgment. For individual voters, or non-voters, they can find a media outlet that will affirm all their pre-conceived notions about how terrible one party or the other is, and how it’s all Obama’s fault.
Blaming Obama is an equal opportunity endeavor. It doesn’t matter where you are on the ideological spectrum; finding fault with a lame duck president is almost too easy. Democrats hung in there with Obama through the 2012 election and a promised shake-up of the White House, which didn’t amount to much. But Democrats are now buying, however reluctantly, the “narrative” about Obama’s passivity and bystander attitude as crisis after crisis breaks on his watch.
In a sea of chatter, the two sides can’t even agree on basic information. Facts are up for grabs every night on the cable talk shows. With the Middle East in turmoil and fears of Ebola escaping from West Africa, polls show that the Republican Party is seen as having the best handle on national security. How quickly Americans forget how unhappy they were with former President Bush for taking the country to war in Iraq. Now they’re angry at Obama for not cleaning up the mess fast enough that Bush left behind. That’s how Clinton put it at the Democratic Convention.
Democrats win over Republicans on “understands people like me,” and the party best able to deal with women’s issues. But the economy is the number one issue in every election, and Republicans have edged ahead of Democrats as the party better able to handle the economy. It’s not as though things are that terrible; it’s just that people expected a lot more.
© 2014 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND