After weeks of bashing ObamaCare and the president who created it, could some in the mainstream media be getting….bored?
After all, sounding off on the same stuff day after day—The website is a mess! They were warned in advance! Millions are losing their coverage! The president broke his promise!—gets old after awhile. You search for a new lead, new anecdote, new angle, new outrage, something to freshen up the story line in a business that thrives on novelty.
But something else may be at work as well. Among journalists interested in balance, an instinct may be kicking in that kicking the president around for too long may be tipping the scales. And so they cast their gaze across the political landscape and spot…the Republicans!
Yes, the Republicans, the ones who brought us the government shutdown. What have they been up to? Perhaps it’s time to rough them up a little.
And among journalists sympathetic to Barack Obama, who may feel uneasy about using him as a piñata, switching subjects allows them to let their guy get off the mat while they throw a few punches elsewhere.
Whatever the reason, I’m sensing a shift, subtle for now, toward again scrutinizing the GOP.
National Journal columnist Ron Fournier, who’s been pretty merciless in castigating Obama for lacking leadership, evens the score a bit with the opposition party:
“The Republican Party stands for nothing. As Barack Obama threatens to fumble away his presidency along with the Democratic Party's reasons for existence—championing an active, efficient government—the GOP lurches into the leadership breach with … zilch.
“Rather than be the party of solutions in a gridlocked capital, appealing to a leadership-starved public, the GOP is the party of obstruction, ensuring that its putrid approval ratings nose-dive apace with Obama's.
“The country needs sensible immigration reform that brings 11 million or so undocumented residents out of the shadows. No, says the GOP.
“The country needs to tame a massive debt that will be 100 percent of the gross domestic product by 2038 unless Congress raises revenue and trims entitlements. No, says the GOP.
“The country needs fair debate and compromise around existential issues such as climate change, income inequality, and a deteriorating 20th-century infrastructure. No, says the GOP.”
The New York Times editorial page also tries to turn the tables with this argument: Obama fumbled, but the Republicans are calling off the game:
“With unrestrained glee, Republicans are using the calamitous debut of the Affordable Care Act as their latest justification for undermining all of health care reform. But they’re not stopping there. The Obama administration’s fumbling is apparently a good excuse for them to do nothing on immigration reform, on a budget agreement, and on any other initiative coming out of the White House…
“Their opportunistic theme is clear: If you can’t trust President Obama on this issue, how can you trust him on anything else? Unquestionably, the White House handed them this gift through two kinds of incompetence: the technical failure of the health-exchange website, and the political failure of the president in falsely promising that no one would lose an insurance policy they already had.
“But just as these blunders are not the end of the health reform, they will also, in the end, not stop the long march to immigration reform, more jobs or desperately needed improvements to education, transportation and other fundamental functions.”
This new emphasis comes as top Democrats are also trying to move the spotlight to other issues. Nancy Pelosi says the party has “great candidates” for 2014 who “are concerned that government was shut down because of a whim on the part of the Republicans, costing us $25 billion to our economy and 0.6 percent of our GDP growth." The House minority leader also brought up immigration reform, gun background checks and the gay rights non-discrimination act.
Now a couple of editorials and columns doesn’t amount to a major media shift. The photo-op disaster in which the health care website crashed while Kathleen Sebelius was making a presentation is forcing the subject back into the news. But I sense the winds shifting a bit.
Times ‘A Changing
The New York Times, filling the void left by statistics whiz Nate Silver (who defected to ESPN), is launching a new feature that combines data with analytical reporting.
And the paper has some heavy hitters, including Washington bureau chief David Leonhardt, who will give up that post to lead the team. And a star attraction will be historian Michael Beschloss, who posts fabulous old photos on Twitter and is starting a similar feature for the Times.
At the same time, the paper is copying—excuse me, competing with—Mike Allen’s daily Playbook newsletter at Politico, with its own tip sheet run by veteran reporter and editor Carl Hulse. The morning feed will “harvest the best tweets of bureau reporters and aggregate other elements from the Washington news report,” says the Times.
We are officially in the era of branding.
Hey, That Was MY Story!
Twitter isn’t just for political feuds. It’s also a battlefield over journalistic credit.
I’m not vouching for the details here, though I do know that Politico broke the story that Rep. Trey Radel had been charged with cocaine possession. The website also reported on Rep. Grace Ming having been mugged.
Politico’s John Bresnahan tweeted at a couple of Washington Post reporters that they had hijacked the story:
I didn’t see a response from any Post folks, but apparently Bresnahan won points with his colleagues:
.@BresPolitico is getting big cheers here in the newsroom— Dan Berman (@DHBerman) November 20, 2013
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Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.