‘We Thought He Was Going To Be The Next Messiah’
The President is neither messiah nor devil, and the media does the public no favors when it treats him as either.
Last night on CNN, Barbara Walters tried to explain why President Obama was not part of her annual “Most Fascinating People” special as he had been in each of the first four years of his Presidency. Her answer revealed as much about her and the manner in which much of the media treated the President as it does about anything else:
PIERS MORGAN, HOST: You have interviewed every president of my lifetime. Why is Obama facing so much opposition now? Why is he struggling so much to really fulfill the great flame of ambition and excitement that he was elected on originally in 2009?
BARBARA WALTERS: Well, you’ve touched on it to a degree. He made so many promises. We thought that he was going to be – I shouldn’t say this at Christmastime, but – the next messiah. And the whole ObamaCare, or whatever you want to call it, the Affordable Health Act, it just hasn’t worked for him, and he’s stumbled around on it, and people feel very disappointed because they expected more.
It’s very difficult when the expectations for you are very high. You’re almost better off when they are low and then they rise and rise. His were very high and they’ve dropped. But you know, he still has several years to go. What does he have, three years, Piers? And, you know, there will be a lot of changes, one thinks in that time.
There’s really no denying that the media’s utter fascination with Barack Obama, especially during the 2008 campaign, often bordered on the irrationally exuberant. Perhaps Walters goes over the top here just a little, but it’s not an entirely inaccurate way of describing how even many hard-nosed reporters covered that initial campaign and the first years of his Presidency. Now that the rose has revealed itself to be quite thorny indeed, to borrow another metaphor, perhaps they’ll be less inclined to give politicians the celebrity treatment, although one must say that the never ending hagiography one sees for pretty much anything associated with the Clinton or Kennedy camps doesn’t really hold out much hope for the idea that reporters will learn to discipline themselves to not get caught up in the media frenzies they help create.
Of course, there are some places, such as the daily schedule of MSNBC, where that hagiography will never end and where, indeed, the participants will largely continue to this day to insist that the media image created for candidate Obama in 2007 and 2008 bears any resemblence to the reality of the past five years. To be fair, there are also places, such as the daily schedule of Fox News Channel, where the effort to paint the President as anything other than utterly incompetent in every sense of the word if not complete evil incarnate will similarly never end. As will all things, the reality lies somewhere in the middle. As the past year has demonstrated quite aptly, there have been significant failures in planning, policy, execution, and management coming out of the White House. At the same time, there have also been notable successes over the past five years and many of the examples of venality that the Presidents enemies continue to harp on are, in reality, more examples of bad planning, supervision, or policy on the Administration’s part, along with the Presidents puzzling unwillingness to actually discipline via termination members of his team in the manner that past Presidents have done. Indeed, by most historical measures, Obama has been at best an average President to date and it will take many years before an objective measurement of his Presidency can be, or ought to be, made.
The larger point is that the media of which Walters is a part is not really doing its job if it allows itself to get caught up in a popular movement that either places the President on a pedestal or drags him down into the street. Their job is not to be a cheerleader or an attacker, but to be a check on government power, perhaps the most important check on government power at all levels. The Founding Father recognized this when they placed Freedom of the Press in the Bill of Rights, and our contemporary news media would do well to recognize the role they ought to be playing rather than worrying about what happened to their dear “Messiah.”
H/T: Ed Morrissey
Jesus is reportedly unimpressed.
There’s really no denying that the media’s utter fascination with Barack Obama, especially during the 2008 campaign, often bordered on the irrationally exuberant.
I’d say it occasionally bordered on merely sycophantic, and “irrationally exuberant” was the norm.
Here are a bunch of photographic examples.
I didn’t realize that Barbara was so delusional.
@Jenos Idanian #13:
Well that explains the nearly 5 year “irrationally exuberant” defiant opposition to nearly everything Obama does.
They just couldn’t get a Handel on him
Where to start? One, didn’t we all know years ago that Walters is an air head? Two, who’s this “we”? As far as I’ve ever seen, this Obama as “the Messiah”, as “the One”, is mostly a creation of the press and right wing bloggers. Three, problems with a website are not problems with the substance of the law, but of course Bahbah doesn’t do “substance”. Four, the press have to have a narrative, and ‘failed second term’ seem to be the stock narrative, almost independent of events. And five, Doug, no; it is not the press’s job to be a check on power. Their job is to fully and accurately report the news. They suck at that, so let’s not ask them to do anything more difficult.
This is really an inside the MSM story. One of our outstanding media twits complaining about media twits.
Shark… meet jump.
Those nagging voices warning folks not to say the stupid things they planned on saying should be heeded more often.
Mr. Obama has not surprised me on the upside or the downside, really, he’s pretty much stayed within the range I expected him to occupy.
The right has been and remains terrified of the black president. The sickness at the heart of modern “conservatism” has been on full display.
The left for its part somehow confused symbolism and the man. The symbolism was about overcoming 200 plus years of vicious racism to elect an African-American. The symbolism was about who we had grown to become, not about the guy himself. The congratulations were self-congratulation, and well-deserved, at least for the middle and the left.
That people turned from what should have been quiet satisfaction to full-on hero worship speaks to an irrationality that exists on the left as well as the right: the desire to be led, and to be somehow exalted by virtue of following.
I don’t really get that instinct. In fact I’d be sort of the diametric opposite of that instinct. Not only won’t I follow, I also won’t lead. But people are raised on myths ranging from Jesus to King Arthur to Captain America. They’re desperate for heroes. It’s an instinct that explains a whole lot of the evil done by humans.
The beauty of this between the media and Obama is that The Truth is Out There. Not buried in some newspaper archive or film library but on thousands of hard drives spread all across the land in HD.
Barbara Wa-Wa has seen the light, Peggy Noonan has seen the light, others have seen the light. And it is the headlight of a freight train. We’ll start seeing a lot of spin to save their reputations. Obama will probably not fair well in that blood letting.
“The right has been and remains terrified of the black president.”
You, sir, are as delusional as Ms. Walters. I understand that you and most liberals have to believe this, because otherwise you would have to face the fact that his presidency has been a disaster and that you voted for a narcissistic adolescent…twice.
Only so-called “liberals” see everything through the lens of race. Your comment is pure, unadulterated projection.
The truth being what in your demented, racist view? We’ve known all along he was black.
And by the way, yeah, after what you wrote on the Lee/Jackson thread you’re damned right I’ll call you a racist.
Oh, go crawl back to Storm Front. We’ve already got enough of your ilk.
@JKB: “, Peggy Noonan has seen the light”
Ow, wow, man, if a hard core liberal Democrat like Peggy Noonan has turned on Obama, he must really be in trouble.
Good to see your political insights are as keen as ever!
Striking that JKB read my mind tying Baba Wawa with Peggy Noonan. I had the exact same takeaway, right down to the SNL mangling. Might as well have fun with this since it’s way too meta to have pundits keying off of pundits. Where’s the beef?
@alanstorm: “Only so-called “liberals” see everything through the lens of race. Your comment is pure, unadulterated projection.”
You forgot to say he was “half-black.” That always convinces people that liberals are the real racists.
Lay off the Kool Aid.
Why is it that conservatives (over 50% of the Republican Party) were all in on the Birther Movement? Also, why is it that conservatives are now selling the notion that today victims of racism in America today are White people, and that liberals are racist for suggesting that racism exists?
Clearly, conservatives are the ones who are obsessed with race, and all it took was the election of a Black president to demonstrate that point..
@michael reynolds: Gosh, Michael, I didn’t agree with what you’re saying, but now that you threatened to call me a racist, I guess I’ll have to slink away quietly.
No, but I’ll call you dishonest for trying to play victim.
JKB is a racist. Period.
I’ve never had reason to think you were. So spare me the b.s.
I’m getting more and more convinced that all the good reporters saw the handwriting on the wall and quit the profession for greener fields, leaving behind a field of clueless egoists convinced that “reporting” means nothing more than reporting on each other’s belly-button lint and Getting Both Sides Of The Story.
Totally OT, but has anyone read Bobo’s latest hairball over at the NYT? Half of the Internet peanut gallery is convinced it’s a suicidal cry for help (Bobo Agonistes) and the other half are wondering what dope he smoked. Go look up Pierce’s fisking of the column over at Vanity Fair–it’s a hoot.
Now you are lying like Barack Obama.
I refer you and anyone else who cares to check, to your bizarre and inexcusable effort to blame Jim Crow on carpetbaggers. That is straight-up racist mythology. Been hearing it since I was in middle school in Virginia and Florida. There’s no other word for it.
What’s happened is journalism schools and TV money. Used to be that a reporter was a guy with a cheap suit and a tattered notebook whose parents were milkmen or factory workers. They learned their trade on the police beat, or in union halls, or trying to catch the mayor taking bribes.
Now it’s about looks to a huge degree. There’s a lot more money on the table at the high end. And reporters come from middle class homes and have j-school educations. Just a completely different bunch of people.
Just about every President I can remember has fallen off in public interest as their time in office increased. By the time the second term comes around, there usually aren’t that many surprises coming from them. And that, more than whether people like what they’re doing or not, is what drives “fascinating”.
Obama’s been a decent President, which is what sane people expected and hoped for. People who expected the Messiah or the anti-Christ were living in some alternate reality.
@michael reynolds: I think it’s also that very few media organizations want to pay for actual reporting any more. They’d much prefer cut, cut, cut, then recycle news from the AP and Reuters feeds and throw in a few blatherskites called opinion writers in there.
One of my friends was a radio reporter for UPI who was based out of Tokyo and covered damn near everything in the Far East. He finally got out of the gig when he noticed they had fired all the Old Japan Hands and Old China Hands who knew all the background information necessary to interpret what was going on (and the cynicism to not believe the government/business press releases.)
Yep. I’ve consistently thought his GPA entitled him to an A- at best, down to a solid B at worst. So, if he writes a good essay and shows some good extracurriculars he can certainly get into a good state school but he won’t be going to MIT or Stanford. Much better than his immediate predecessor, but not exactly FDR or Lincoln. Overall I’m pleased, but not ready to carve a new face on Mt. Rushmore.
Paraphrasing what I said in another thread, President Obama chalked up a historic accomplishment in the Affordable Care Act. From my vantage point in the upper midwest, his rescue of the domestic auto industry was equally important. He’s managed to extricate us from the Iraq War without simply scuttling and running. And finally, in large part his administration has been honorable. No torture. No outing of a CIA agent because her husband wrote an op-ed opposing the administration. No demonizing of researchers studying global warming. No thuggish attacks on critics like Richard Clarke. No questioning the patriotism of political opponents. I agree with Barbara Walters that Obama is no messiah. I didn’t expect that. I wanted competence and decency, and that’s what I got.
That is absolutely true. Profit motive explains to a great degree why the best broadcast news organizations are the BBC and NPR, with solid props as well to Aljazeera, all government-funded to one degree or another.
The NYT is still doing good work, though, and adapting better and better to the web.
Anyone who has been surprised by Obama was not paying attention.
Nothing he has done has shocked me one bit.
Really Doug? You actually find it “puzzling”? Considering how Senate Republicans have done everything they can to block any nomination of Obama’s you actually don’t understand why Obama does not want to decapitate any of the agencies under his control?
Myopia, thy name is Mataconis.
So, what, you’re a Buddhist now?
So the Obama presidency didn’t live up to the crafted story line of the baffoon class we call journalists. You know…the folks that got the reading degrees in school because math and science were “too hard”. Who the heck with an average IQ thinks ANY politician is a “Messiah”.
The only similarities are between the two are withing the context of betrayal, insults, and false accusations portion of the story.
Now the baffoon crowd is out peddling the “failed second term” meme. Its the same @$&%–different day. Meanwhile the powerless keep getting jerked around..
Y’know, considering the last guy we had in the White House and the examples of planning, policy, execution, and management we had then…
I’m just saying. You compare against other presidents, not against your dreams.
Finally, Barbara Walters is a nut for thinking any official was going to be messianic. I mean, good lord, that’s detached.
Um…which “historical measures” would those be, pray tell?
Average implies that 22 Presidents were better…by these same “historical measures”.
Exactly which 22 would that be?
I do not see how you can look at the list of Obama’s accomplishments…in just 5 years…and call him average.
Please explain in detail.
Exactly. The relevant comparison is to John McCain and Mitt Romney, not to Jesus, Gandhi, George Washington, or some shining idealized version of Obama that exists only in Barbara Walters’ mind.
The biggest issue of Obama’s Presidency is the economic recovery from the Bush Contraction…the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.
So how many other Presidents can even be compared by that “historic measure”? Hoover and FDR? That’s way less than 22.
This is nonsensical….at best.
Jamelle Bouie does a good analysis of why peoplle are disapoointed with Obama, and it has nothing to do with the scandals or anything else: it’s the economy, stupid.
What has stopped the economy from recovering faster? Why, Republicans’ blocking each anbd every attempt by OBama to revive the economy, after the stimulus. Thank God that the Fed has been doing its part, or the economy (and Obama’s standing) would be even worse.
Well yeah…but they sabotaged the stimulus too…and today the Fed is talking about tapering…when UE is still 7%.
Typically construction and government growth lead us out of recessions.
Construction is finally back…mostly anyway.
Republicans are still sabotaging the later. And then complaining about the effects.
My suspicion is that the recovery (or lack there-of) has almost nothing to do with either Obama or the Republicans (not that the GOP haven’t done their best to stop the recovery) – with the way the economy has become globalized, recovery is probably beyond the powers of any single country’s leaders. Or even groups thereof like the G8 or G20.
Politicians like to take credit for good economies and blame others for bad economies, but I suspect not even they really believe they can do much about it. They’re playing around with dials and levers that make a few percentage points change, but are orders of magnitude too small to really effect things. Like opening a garden hose on the Hoover Dam to adjust the height of its reservoir.
and yet, things like this happen….
Yeah, baby…. Invest in that gold
I did not blame Jim Crowe on the Carpetbaggers. I blamed it on the Democrats who filled the void after the Carpetbaggers left with their spoils. The Carpetbaggers exploited the naive freed slaves for their own political purposes and tried to stir up racial hatred among the slaves. It didn’t work but did facilitate the return of the Democrats fresh with racial hatred to salve the loss of their beloved slavery due to their oppressive double dealing of the Yankee interlopers. It wasn’t until Nixon that Southern Republicans could make inroads into the Democratic hold up on Southern society and the Democrat party enforced racial apartheid.
@edmondo: I’ve actually heard from a neighbor that worked with one of the too-big-to-fails that they bought out construction companies through intermediaries and are now the hidden hand behind much of the new housing construction despite low public interest in committing 30-years of payments in a job market where your employment status is dicey and salary predictability even more so. At least they’re building something of value….
Yes, the racists in the south switched parties somewhere between Johnson’s Great Society and Nixon’s Southern Strategy. You noticed.
Left unmentioned, of course, is what really changed in that time period. I’ll give you a hint: It wasn’t the views of southern racists.
@al-Ameda: well, her and those who thought like her!? i imagine the defensiveness from obamaites stems from this feeling as well. he’s just a guy, and in the end he didn’t do what they thought he could do- whatever that was.
Most of the people who referred to Obama as “The Messiah” were right wing people who wanted to mock or diminish Obama from the onset.
I think that Obama has been a good president – the economy has progressively moved out of the deep recession and wreckage of the 2007-2008 financial collapse, and we’re winding down Iraq and Afghanistan, ACA has expanded coverage for millions of Americans. Obama has been about what I expected – a moderate Democratic president. People – on the left and right – who expected that Obama would implement a strong progressive agenda were just plain wrong.
You’re trying to be sensible with bill?
Admirable…and yet pointless.
Riiiight. So, let’s get this straight. Before the war, southern Democrats were utterly racist and favored slavery even when it meant treason and war.
And then along came carpetbaggers who “tried to stir up racial hatred among the slaves.”
Because people who had only weeks earlier been slaves and been whipped and been raped by their white masters and had their children ripped from them and sold away into slavery. . . didn’t mind white people. No, they were happy about white folk. Loved them some white folk.
And then, back came the southern Democrats who. . . had gone where, exactly? And now returned from where, exactly? Had they all been in France? In fact, weren’t these the exact same people who had just owned all the slaves? And didn’t they go nowhere at all? And didn’t they change their attitudes not one whit?
And so what exactly do carpetbaggers have to do with anything?
See how easily your absurd little fable gets taken apart? First you tried to blame carpetbaggers, then you denied you were trying to lame carpetbaggers and proceeded to blame carpetbaggers all over again, and not one shred of it makes even the most tenuous sort of sense.
Now, either you’re an idiot – and I’ve never thought you were below average intelligence. Or you have a strong motive for spouting transparent drivel that seeks to mitigate the guilt of the guilty.
And what would that motive be?
Gosh, let’s all put on our thinking caps and ask ourselves what would possess a nice, white conservative like you to try and shift blame away from white, southern conservatives with a bunch of nonsense?
I am really happy to read this blog posts which consists of tons of
valuable information, thanks for providing such data.