Saturday, June 28, 2008

THE MEDIA: ENABLING POLITICAL PATHOLOGY & HOW TO AVOID IT

Sam Smith

Barack Obama's post primary flight to the right has upset many progressive online writers, but it is so obvious that even the major media has felt compelled to report it. Obama is not unique in his betrayal of early supporters - McCain is a major flip flopping dissembler as well. It is part of the pathology of politicians. In Obama's case, however, it's not the depth of his dishonesty that is so striking but the mythical height from which he has fallen. The job of the media in such cases is simply to tell the story. Here are two examples. First, from the New York Times

MICHAEL POWELL, NY TIMES Barack Obama has taken a stroll this week away from traditional liberal political positions, his path toward the political center marked by artful leaps and turns. . .

In the last week, Mr. Obama has taken calibrated positions on issues that include electronic surveillance, campaign finance and the death penalty for child rapists, suggesting a presidential candidate in hot pursuit of what Bill Clinton once lovingly described as "the vital center."

"A presidential candidate's great desire is to be seen as pragmatic, and they hope their maneuvering and shifting will be seen in pursuit of some higher purpose," said Robert Dallek, the presidential historian. "It doesn't mean they are utterly insincere."

George W. Bush, too, maneuvered toward the political center in 2000 presidential campaign, convincing many that he might rule in the moderately conservative tradition of his father. And Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, shifted several positions in the Republican primary, taking conservative lines on taxes and immigration. . .

Mr. Obama has executed several policy pirouettes in recent weeks, each time landing more toward the center of the political ring. . .

Powell uses a plethora of Washington terms and excuses designed to exculpate political disingenuousness. Note that Obama is merely strolling away from his former position even while make "artful leaps and turns." Not content with Obama taking such leaps and turns even as he is purportedly strolling, Powell also has him executing "several policy pirouettes" prior to "landing in the center of the political ring," something even a professional wrestler would find difficult. Obama is also calibrating and being pragmatic. And, of course, Powell adds the ultimate Washington defense: everybody does it. The only thing he forgot was triangulation.

The most obvious reasons for such reportage are that either Powell would like to see Obama elected but can't avoid dealing with the issue of his political shifts or that he is afraid of being thrown off the campaign bus if not under it. This is the sort of stuff journalists write when dealing with a touchy issue but don't want to piss off the candidate and his staff. It is the sort of reporting that was done repeatedly during the Clinton years which is why so many Americans didn't understand what the hell was going on.

Now, from the other side of the country, comes the same story in the LA Times. Note that Janet Hook has not attempted to give Obama's shift an inner meaning, or to explain it away. She has - using that increasingly rare technique - simply reported what happened.

JANET HOOK, LOS ANGELES TIMES Barack Obama, as he introduces himself to the broader voting public, is emphasizing centrist -- even conservative -- positions on hot-button issues.

In recent weeks, he toughened his stance on Iran and backed an expansion of the government's wiretapping powers. On Wednesday, he said states should be allowed to execute child rapists. When the Supreme Court the next day struck down the District of Columbia's ban on handguns, he did not complain.

These views would fit many Republican candidates, but they are the recent profile adopted by a man who has been called the most liberal Democrat in the Senate.

In the primary season, candidates' chief goal is usually to win their party's most ideologically driven voters; afterward the candidates often adjust their policy stances. John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee, has also changed tack on an array of issues. But Obama has drawn attention for the number of issues on which he has taken a moderate stance in recent days. . .

At the same time, Obama has proposed a host of government spending initiatives that give Republicans plenty of ammunition to brand him a liberal. And they cite his ranking by National Journal magazine -- called misleading by Obama's aides -- that identified him as having the most liberal voting record in the Senate in 2007.

But other recent moves by Obama chart a more moderate course. . .

The changes carry some risk that Obama will diminish the image he has sought to build as a new type of leader who will change how Washington conducts business. McCain and other Republicans have used his recent policy statements to argue that Obama is a traditional politician, unwilling to take clear stands on tough issues and abandoning his principles when he finds it advantageous

But Bill Burton, an Obama spokesman, said the Illinois senator's record has been consistent, not tilting to the center for political purposes. "He's committed to making decisions he thinks are right," said Burton. "He'll continue to do that as president."

4 Comments:

At June 28, 2008 7:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When both parties represent overwhelmingly right-wing interests as dictated by corporate Amerika, moving to the "center" guarantees a center-right position.

 
At June 29, 2008 12:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm trying to avoid saying I told you so to all my friends who drank the Obama koolaid, but it's not easy. This was all quite obvious throughout his campaign. When every word out of your mouth is a platitude that offers no hint of your actual policies, it's a warning sign. Most of the desperate Bush-haters just refused to see that.

 
At June 29, 2008 6:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama, the corporate-owned Democrat Party, and the corporate media are performing their roles perfectly: taking the energies of dissent in the U.S. and steering them into a dead end.

 
At June 30, 2008 10:41 AM, Blogger xilii said...

Obama promised change, and he changed. Big deal.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home