By Howard Kurtz, ,
Published December 20, 2015
Sports Illustrated High-Fives LeBron
Why the Public Blames Obama (And the GOP) For the Mushrooming Border Crisis
Well, maybe even that photo op wouldn’t have helped.
President Obama, who declined to visit the Texas border during his trip to Rick Perry country, is getting hammered in the polls over the waves of illegal immigrant kids flooding into this country.
And Republicans aren’t faring real well either.
A major reason, in my view, are the pictures. This isn’t some abstract controversy involving facts and figures (although the 57,000 children who have crossed the border illegally this year is a pretty stunning stat). Television has done countless stories on the border debacle, with footage of kids in squalid conditions as well as community protesters who feel the problem is being dumped in their backyard. Reporters have scrambled onto rafts to show how easy it is to cross over into the Rio Grande Valley. They have traveled to Central America to interview families and report on the violence that is driving them to take enormous risks in sending their kids north.
This is not an issue on which the press has been caught napping. I found dozens of stories on the network newscasts and in major newspapers stretching back to early June. But until recently, many news organizations covered the story more like a natural disaster. Only after Obama asked the Hill for $3.7 billion, and the partisan sniping intensified, did the coverage of the administration’s role in this mess turn more critical. And even liberal pundits, including James Carville and Joe Trippi on Fox, faulted the president for not going to the border.
Faced with an out-of-control situation that isn’t getting any better, the public is fed up, at least according to the latest Washington Post/ABC poll:
“Nearly 6 out of 10 Americans are not happy with Obama’s performance in dealing with the tens of thousands of minors who have arrived from Central America in recent months, overwhelming Border Patrol stations. All told, 58 percent disapprove of his management on the issue, including 54 percent of Latinos.” The latter figure is striking, given that the president won reelection with 71 percent support from Latinos.
“Congressional Republicans fare even worse in the court of public opinion, with 66 percent disapproving of the job GOP lawmakers have done to address the crisis. Almost as many Republicans disapprove of their party’s handling of the issue as say they approve, with negative ratings rising to a majority among conservatives.”
As for Obama’s request for emergency funding, 53 percent approval and 43 percent oppose the idea.
With so much opposition, Obama still has his base: “Liberal Democrats were by far the most supportive of his plan, with 76 percent saying they back the proposal. By comparison, 59 percent of moderate and conservative Democrats say they support it.”
Perhaps that’s because more liberals favor immigration reform, or at least are bothered by the notion of sending children back to such places as Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. And immigration activists are pressuring Obama not to force these kids to return home.
On the right, there is deep skepticism about the president’s efforts to “fix” the problem. As Washington Examiner’s Byron York reports:
“Most of Obama's $3.7 billion border crisis spending request will go to the ‘care, feeding, and transportation costs of unaccompanied children and family groups,’ according to a statement to Congress by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Even some of the costs that appear to be slated for the removal of illegal border crossers -- money for more lawyers, for example -- will actually go to help the immigrants avoid deportation.
“Meanwhile, the one thing Obama could do — push hard to change the law forbidding the quick return of young immigrants from noncontiguous countries — is not on the table. Some hoped the president would include a legislative fix in his spending request. He didn't.
“Actions really do speak louder than words. So no matter how tough Obama talks, vowing deportations at some point down the road, there seems little doubt people in Central America contemplating illegal entry into the United States will figure out that the president says one thing, but does another.”
York also calls out “the liberal commentariat, which supports Obama so strongly in this matter that it is actually pushing back against the idea that the border crisis is a crisis at all. ‘The besieged border is a myth,’ the New York Times editorial page declared on Sunday. ‘Republicans are ... stoking panic about a border under assault.’”
At Hot Air, Noah Rothman notes that support for Obama’s handling of the border mess “across racial demographics is shockingly weak. Only 27 percent of whites support his approach compared to 66 percent who oppose it. Just 55 percent of African-Americans back the president’s approach to this crisis – an unusually low finding for a demographic whose approval of the president Gallup currently pegs at 84 percent. Finally, a majority of Latinos – 54 percent – disapprove of Obama’s handling of the border crisis. Only 40 percent support his approach.”
He adds: “Why this pollster decided to gauge the nation’s opinion of how congressional Republicans have handled this situation, I have no idea. Beyond the fact that it serves to conveniently remind the public that the GOP is, as ever, more unpopular than Obama – a refrain you will hear for the rest of the day.”
Polls blip up and down, but the public’s verdict on the border crisis is clear: Another Washington failure that has devolved into partisan blame-shifting, and one where children are suffering to boot. That’s not good news for anyone inside the Beltway, but especially the president.
Sports Illustrated High-Fives LeBron
I wasn’t very impressed by Sports Illustrated’s scoop of the century, as I said on “Media Buzz.”
In exchange for breaking the news that LeBron James was leaving Miami for Cleveland, the magazine published what amounted to a press release—a first-person account by the NBA superstar, rewritten by the SI reporter who interviewed him. No skeptical questions needed. I mean, LeBron should have taken out an ad. He can afford it!
But few others in the journalism biz seemed to care. That is, until this missive yesterday by Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten:
“The story was broken by a writer named Lee Jenkins, in a 950-word ‘as told to’ piece ostensibly by James himself, appearing on the Sports Illustrated website. This was widely hailed as a huge ‘scoop.’… In the sports media, there was general agreement on this point: Great scoop. Nice going, SI. Several media sites did elaborate tick-tocks on how SI achieved its great reporting feat. One discussion string on Twitter was that this was proof that magazines still have relevance in the new world of journalism. Kevin Van Valkenburg, a senior writer for ESPN, tweeted this: A MAGAZINE WRITER BROKE THE LEBRON STORY! IT'S OKAY TO GO TO JOURNALISM SCHOOL!
“Sigh. God help us all. This was not a scoop. It wasn't even good journalism. It was a pure load of crap.
“There's still reason to go to journalism school -- or at least to aspire to be a journalist -- but it's mostly to be a foot soldier in the war against the sort of thinking that has us idiotically celebrating this ‘scoop.’ This ‘scoop’ has all the earmarks of a punt, a sad, sad, acknowledgment of what journalism has too often become in our current world of all-news-all-the-time, where being first is overvalued and being good is too often beside the point, or financially imprudent. So we settle for being glib. And, in desperation for eyeballs and bucks, we too often confuse commerce with journalism. ..
“A ‘scoop’ that is worthy of calling a ‘scoop’ is when someone learns and tells us about something that the public needs to know and that someone else doesn't WANT the public to know…
“LeBron James had a story everyone knew was coming, any day now. Nothing unexpected; there was even speculation that he'd do exactly what he did -- return home. He decided to give this story to one guy (he knew and trusted this guy, and had good reason -- Jenkins had writ a rigorously uncritical 2013 SI piece nominating LeBron for SI's Sportsman of the Year). Then, SI accepts LeBron's suggestion that the story would be written in the first person, which became the ultimate journalistic punt. Give this story to me, says SI to LeBron, and, sure, we'll abandon all skepticism in return.”
That’s a slam dunk of an argument.