Less than two months into Barack Obama’s presidency, it has become clear that the top threat to his ability to accomplish his goals – from reversing the recession to reforming health care to building a greener economy – is not just an obstructionist Republican Party but a U.S. news media that remains largely tilted to the Right.
There is the powerful right-wing media – with its many outlets in print, radio, TV and the Internet – but also a mainstream/corporate media that can’t escape the old dynamic of framing stories negatively about Democrats and granting Republicans every benefit of the doubt.
So, when Obama pushed for a $787 billion stimulus plan, it was treated as too big and too bloated – at least until the new GDP and unemployment numbers came in and suddenly the package was too small and too modest.
When the New York Times and the Washington Post wrote about the stunning 6.2 percent decline in the gross domestic product for the fourth quarter of 2008, their stories focused on Obama’s policy failures, without mentioning that George W. Bush was President throughout the fourth quarter.
Mainstream pundits also are echoing the view from the right-wing media – and from CNBC’s business boosters – that Obama has become “the great wealth destroyer” because of the stock market drop from the Nov. 4 election to today.
Left out of many of these commentaries is the fact that the sharp declines were already underway and were clearly the result of the Wall Street financial crisis that occurred under Bush.
Simply put, Obama is taking the heat for today’s economic catastrophe -- and that will inevitably erode his ability to govern. Ex-President Bush continues to be pampered, much as he was for most of his eight years as President.
Even shocking disclosures about his administration’s secret legal opinions that granted Bush virtually unlimited power – including the right to eliminate the First Amendment’s guarantees of free speech and a free press – were treated as minor stories by today’s not-so-free press.
And if you think the mainstream media will somehow improve on its own, you might want to check out the Washington Post’s op-ed page on almost any given day. Ask yourself which of these high-paid columnists risked their careers to warn the nation about the Iraq War.
Indeed, they almost all were part of the stampede – Krauthammer, Ignatius, Hoagland, Cohen, Hiatt, Kagan, etc., etc.
And when the news media – both right-wing and mainstream – isn’t operating with pro-Bush blinders on, they’re obsessing about some inconsequential story. Just try to calculate how much more time and space was devoted to the “Octo-Mom” story than to Bush’s secret legal opinions gutting the U.S. Constitution. It would require a calculator that processes very large numbers.
All this is why we started Consortiumnews.com in 1995, because we believed even then that an honest news alternative with high professional standards was necessary to counter what was emerging as a national news media that veered from goofy to harmful, from obsessing about O.J. Simpson to helping the right wing wage war on Bill Clinton’s presidency.
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Robert Parry, Editor
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.
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This story was published on March 9, 2009.