Matthew Continetti posits that the mainstream media are losing enthusiasm for the president. He correctly cites the press reaction to his campaign-style trips:
How much longer do we have to pretend these POTUS events aren’t campaign events?” tweeted MSNBC’s Mike O’Brien. “This is campaigning. Just call it that,” said the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein. They were echoing ABC’s Jake Tapper, who noted last week that the White House “seemed offended” when asked whether “electoral factors” determined Obama’s travel. Seizing an opportunity, the Republican National Committee lodged a formal complaint with the Government Accountability Office, alleging that the White House was using official funds for electioneering.
If this foreshadows a more skeptical stance toward the president’s chicanery that would be refreshing. But the mixing of campaign and official travel is sort of a “freebie” for the media — they can pose as critical watchdogs without going after any serious substantive offense.
We’ll know that the mainstream media, in contrast to 2008, are playing this one somewhat straight when:
1. The president and/or Jay Carney are quizzed on the appalling gap between the president’s rhetoric on Syria (“we are doing everything we can”) and our passivity in the face of mass atrocities.
2. There are extensive front-page stores in the major newspapers looking at the fates of the plants, factories and offices President Obama and Vice President Biden visited to tout “the recovery.”
3. The president is asked directly why, as The Post and the New York Times have reported, he “backed up” on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in the grand bargain and did not support Simpson-Bowles or parts thereof.
4. The president is asked (and legal scholars and judges are sought out for opinion) why he has attacked the Supreme Court (on Citizens United and Obamacare) and whether as a constitutional law instructor he considers that damaging to the rule of law. If the reporters are really serious they can quote back to Obama the words of the near-sainted former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the danger of vilifying judges.
5. We see comprehensive reporting on the deterioration in human rights in China, Russia, Syria, Iran and elsewhere and comment from human rights organizations on the president’s human rights policies.
6. There is some systematic reporting on the reaction of Jewish voters and donors to the president’s Israel policy. Do pro-Zionist Democrats regret touting his Israel bona fides in 2008? How many Jewish donors and bundlers are not giving him money (or are giving him less) and why is that?
7. The president is asked (and Hispanic voters are interviewed) on why the president, at a time when his party had majorities in both house of Congress, never pushed for, let alone introduced, comprehensive immigration reform?
8. The president is confronted on his misleading language on energy policy and we see comprehensive reporting on the claims by energy producers that this administration is making it more difficult than ever to develop domestic oil supplies. The Post’s Glenn Kessler can serve as a guide:
Last week we wrote about Obama’s dubious combination of two true statistics — the fact that the United States has 2 percent of proven oil reserves and accounts of 20 percent of annual oil consumption. We called these “non sequitur facts,” since they have little relationship to each other, and gave the president the rarely used “true but false” rating. We also said we would monitor the president’s use of these figures in the future. . . .
But in his Prince George’s speech, Obama claimed that even if “we went to your house and we went to the National Mall and we put up those rigs everywhere, we’d still have only 2 percent of the world’s known oil reserves.” In New Mexico, Obama declared, “even if we drilled every square inch of this country, we’d still only have 2 or 3 or 4 percent of the world’s known oil reserves.”
That’s just simply wrong. The United States has the same number of barrels of proven oil reserves — 22 billion — today as it did in the 1940s. That’s because new sources of oil kept getting found, more-difficult-to-obtain oil suddenly became more economically viable, new oil-extraction techniques gained favor, and so forth.
9. We see in print and on air coverage a side-by-side comparison of Obama’s high-minded 2008 rhetoric and his 2012 language.
10. There is serious reporting on the throngs of the long-term unemployed and on college grads with no jobs, in the same way we saw story after story on the homeless during the Reagan years.
I don’t suggest that the mainstream media reporters do only these or even all of these. But that none of these are being done suggests an unwillingness by the media to vet and report on the president with the same fervor with which they go after his opponent. If 2008 was the election in which we saw journalistic sins of commission (blatant cheerleading for the president), 2012 is proving to be the election of omission in which the press turn a blind eye toward the president’s many failings.