Published January 12, 2012
Like the discovery of gambling in “Casablanca,” the mainstream media is shocked, shocked! to learn there is chaos and back-stabbing in the Obama White House. The media missed the story for the same reason Capt. Renault missed gambling at Rick’s Cafe: They chose to.
A cash kickback did the trick in the film. In real life, the Washington pack turns away from the truth for something less forgivable.
Three years after President Obama took office, much of the national press corps remains remarkably uncurious about what has gone wrong inside the land of Hope & Change. Whether still mesmerized by hypnotic chants of “Yes we can” or afraid to risk access by asking unpleasant questions, the press largely has failed to pierce the secrecy surrounding all the president’s men, their conflicts and policies.
It is a shameful dereliction, given that the Great Recession has left 25 million Americans out of work or looking for a full-time job, and the national debt has reached 100 percent of GDP. To state the obvious, no Republican president ever enjoyed a similar lack of scrutiny during a national emergency.
Consider that nearly all of Obama’s economic team left in stunningly short order, yet no newspaper, magazine or broadcast news show connected the dots. Only author Ron Suskind late last year exposed the incompetence and bitter tensions behind the failed policies the team produced.
Suskind’s “Confidence Men” showed that Obama’s lack of experience and overconfidence created a mash-up of male egos that caused top female staffers to complain their views were not taken seriously. Suskind also showed how Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner ignored harebrained Obama decisions that would have rocked the financial world, such as effectively nationalizing Citibank.
The book made news for a few days, then members of the press pack who didn’t go back to sleep careened off into reporting weighty matters of state, such as whether Sarah Palin had a one-night stand with a basketball player in 1987.
Recent days have demonstrated the press missed two other big stories, too, proving it is still content with the “scoops” the administration feeds it.
One story involved the “surprising” resignation by White House chief-of-staff Bill Daley a year after taking the job. The decision was surprising only because the press corps ignored signs he was flaming out.
Last November, Daley told insiders he was sharing his duties with another official. Less than three months later, he quits, prompting a flood of inky speculation about a “rare shakeup,” as a headline in The New York Times said.
Nonsense. As Suskind showed with the economic team, and as Daley’s short, turbulent tenure confirms, the “No Drama Obama” facade is just that. It is a public-relations gimmick the media has swallowed.
Daley was brought in to fix Obama’s relations with the business community. But the president decided to wage class warfare, so there was no point in Daley trying to court business leaders, since Obama is running against them.
Another story the sleeping-dog media missed involves the tensions between Michelle Obama and the president’s inner circle. Again, a book breaks the news.
In “The Obamas,” author Jodi Kantor reveals a diva first lady using a senior adviser to the president, Valerie Jarrett, to rail against decisions and people.
Kantor says the president was passive about his wife’s odd behavior, while Rahm Emanuel, the first chief-of-staff, and Robert Gibbs, the first press secretary, pushed back. Gibbs, who cursed out both Jarrett and Michelle Obama, and Emanuel left the administration.
There was no mention in the mainstream media of those conflicts when they resigned, or of Kantor’s disclosure that Emanuel offered to resign earlier, during disputes over health care.
Kantor is a reporter for the Times, yet her groundbreaking work showing Michelle Obama as something other than a fitness-obsessed fashion icon appeared in book form first. Excerpts were published in the Times.
Maybe that’s the New Journalism. If you want real news, wait for the book.