Bob Woodward may not appreciate how lethal the bullet was he fired at Barack Obama last week. In the last five years of American history, a national journalist contradicting the president about big news—like the origin and impact of the sequester--is a rare, subversive act.
To an astonishing degree since he arrived on the national stage, the national story has been whatever Obama wants it to be, and decidedly not what he doesn’t. If others journalists follow Woodward’s lead, Obama will have to operate in an environment where the major media covers him, instead of fondly echoing him.
Never in American history has a president enjoyed such a circumstantially flexible national reporting corps. When Senator Obama condemned George Bush’s ”unpatriotic” increase in the debt ceiling, the national media happily portrayed the man from Hyde Park as a fiscally responsible reformer. Here was a guy who understood the untenable burden on our children of a $200 billion dollar deficit and a $10 trillion dollar debt. He would fix that!
When candidate Obama promised to comb through the national budget, line by line, eliminating programs that were obsolete, inefficient, or didn’t work, the media swooned over an effective liberal who would restore big government’s credibility.
He railed against lawless surveillance and wiretaps on Americans plotting with enemies overseas. So, national reporters hailed the man who would restore constitutional limits to government, and end the madness.
What a difference winning makes. When the president turned on a dime and ignored all his promises, the national reporting apparatus turned on a dime and changed all its perspectives.
Slog in Iraq for three more years? The man who said he’d end it and bring the troops home immediately was just being responsible. Surge in Afghanistan? It would be senseless to squander our gains, wouldn’t it?
Foreign rendition, surveillance, wiretaps, Gitmo…all still in business. That’s not important.
Improving joblessness; Halving the deficit; Fixing the economy in three years or exit; Not being about Red or Blue, but bringing Americans together; Health reform negotiations broadcast on CSPAN; No lobbyists tainting the most transparent, ethical administration in history.
There was hardly a seductive promise from before that he didn’t happily trample after, to little if any coverage, and even less consequence.