Whoever wins today’s election, the Obama presidency and his presidential campaign have exposed troubling political and social dysfunctions that bode ill for our future.
The Final Corruption of the Mainstream Media
Since Watergate and Vietnam, it has been obvious that the media are ideologically liberal. But professional ethics and careerist self-interest still kept at least some reporters willing to pursue the truth no matter whose partisan ox was gored. The last four years have marked a transition from ideological preferences tempered by professional integrity, to rank partisanship and eager collusion with the political needs of the Democrats.
The media’s failure in 2008 to vet Senator Obama with the same intensity and thoroughness that modern presidential candidates are routinely subjected to was just the beginning. The indifference to Obama’s unsavory connections to his racist pastor Jeremiah Wright, the unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers, and the sleazy operator Tony Rezko; the failure to demand the full medical records and the college transcripts of an alleged genius; the shrugging away of the numerous fabrications and distortions in Obama’s two memoirs––all would have been meticulously excavated by the media in the case of any other candidate for the highest office in the land. This dereliction on the part of self-styled “watchdogs” helped put into office one of the least-known and most unexamined presidents in U.S. history.
Similarly, Obama’s record of domestic and foreign policy scandals and failures as president, his bare-knuckled partisanship, his transfers of billions of tax dollars to political allies like the United Auto Workers, his nasty campaign of lies and innuendo, his verbal blunders like “corpse-man” and the “Austrian” language, his ignorance of facts like the amount of the national debt, his stumbling speeches and gaffes when he doesn’t have a teleprompter, his preference for golf and interviews with lightweight shows like The View and Letterman Show over press conferences or meetings with his economic and national security advisors, his shameless non-stop campaigning on the tax-payer’s dime, and the vacuous banality of his rhetoric discredited at every turn by his actions and policies, were all either ignored or spun by a media that have sold their professional integrity for a mess of partisan pottage.
No issue better illustrates this bias than the still on-going scandal over the murders of our diplomatic and security staff in Benghazi. As of last Thursday, CBS, ABC, and NBC had gone 7 nights in a row without mentioning the story. The reluctance of the legacy media to demand an accounting for the increasingly obvious attempt by the White House to spin the attack for partisan advantage is one of the most shameful betrayals by the Fourth Estate in recent memory. Just compare the feeding frenzy over Watergate, a political scandal in which no one died, to the skimpy, reluctant, special-pleading coverage of Benghazi, and the extent of the media’s degradation becomes obvious.
So pervasive has been this partisanship that even liberal reporters have had to acknowledge it. ABC News correspondent Jake Tapper admitted that the “media helped tip the scales” for Obama during the 2008 campaign. MSNBC political analyst Mark Halperin acknowledged that the Washington media is “very susceptible to doing what the Obama campaign wants, which is to focus on” marginal issues like Mitt Romney’s tax returns. And The New York Times conceded that the Obama campaign is allowed to have “veto power” over the reporting of its statements. But this self-awareness of the few cannot halt what Jonah Goldberg calls “mindless advocacy journalism,” nor slow the media’s increasingly desperate partisanship as it becomes more evident that Mitt Romney could win the race.
The Progressive Racism of Racial Obsession
The media’s love affair with Barack Obama is explained not just by his congenial ideology, but by the simple fact that he is black. What the media’s indulgence of Obama’s mistakes and failures over the last four years has exposed is the progressive racism of low expectations, the refusal to hold blacks other than conservative ones to the same expectations and standards whites are held to.
Worse yet, Obama’s blackness is mostly skin-deep, a throwback to the old Jim Crow one-drop rule. Neither his upbringing nor the environment of his formative years is typical of most American blacks. So too his education, from the tony Hawaiian prep school to elite enclaves like Columbia and Harvard Law School. Nor is Obama descended from slaves, a formative element of black American identity, as black writer Stanley Crouch suggested with an essay titled “What Obama Isn’t: Black Like Me.” But for white progressive racists, Obama is perfect: basically indistinguishable in life-style and ideology from themselves, yet “black” without all the excesses of funk that frighten them into living as far from non-elite blacks as possible.
This phony blackness, of course, hasn’t prevented Obama from playing the race card despite his post-racial rhetoric and promise to heal America’s racial divides. Quite the contrary, he continually has called attention to race when it suits him. Just watch the recently unearthed video in which he clumsily affects idiomatic black speech as he praises Jeremiah Wright, indulges divisive racialist rhetoric, and outright lies that the government short-changed the victims of hurricane Katrina. And let’s not forget his calling his grandmother a “typical white person,” or saying the Boston police “acted stupidly” in the Henry Louis Gates affair, or patronizing the “bitter clingers” and their “antipathy toward people who aren’t like them,” or suggesting Republicans would scare voters away from Obama because he “doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.” The subtext of such remarks is that any opposition to Obama and his policies would be a reflection not of a disagreement with his politics, but fear and loathing of his race.
The Democrats and their media flacks, however, have felt no need to be subtle about such specious ad hominem attacks. They made racism the go-to narrative of their political reporting. Their negative coverage of the town-hall protests and the Tea Party movement is a particularly egregious example. Typical was the comment of Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, who said the Tea Party’s success was “difficult to explain without asking whether race is playing a role,” and claimed Obama’s race “makes some people unsettled, anxious, even suspicious.” Spurious charges that Tea Party member had used racial epithets against black congressmen at a 2010 rally were reported as confirming this calumny, even as the $100,000 Andrew Breitbart offered to anyone providing hard evidence supporting this charge went unclaimed.
Republicans in general were likewise tarred with the racist brush. New York Times columnist Charles Blow wrote, “Not all Republicans are intolerant, but the intolerant seem to have found a home under their tent. And instead of chasing the intolerant out, the party turns a blind eye — or worse, gives a full embrace — and counts up their votes.” The more unhinged members of the progressive media made Robinson and Blow sound subtle and nuanced. Google “Keith Olbermann racist tea party” and you get over a million hits, with statements like “If racism is not the whole of the Tea Party, it is in its heart.” Google “Chris Matthews racist Republicans” and almost 4 million hits pop up. Matthews has been at the forefront of exposing alleged “dog whistles,” racist code-words like “angry,” “Chicago,” “Constitution,” “experienced,” “Food Stamp president,” “golf,” “kitchen cabinet,” “Obamacare,” “privileged,” “professor,” and “you people,” which Republicans use in their campaigns to stir up the racist inclinations of their white supporters. So too Keith Olbermann, who attacked Sarah Palin for saying “shuck and jive,” a “racially demeaning phrase” according to Olbermann, and scolded actor Chuck Norris for using the phrase “a 100 years of darkness” in the context of Obama’s presidency.
This pathological race-consciousness is a reflection of the progressive obsession with racial identity that eerily recalls the mentality of old-school segregationists. Opposing voter identification laws, for example, because they will “disenfranchise” blacks assumes some level of collective incompetence or inferiority afflicting black people, who alone are deemed incapable of obtaining photo identification necessary for so many other public transactions. The presidency of Obama has not taken us beyond these obsessions, but exacerbated them, elevating skin-color over individual character for political gain, even as the problems of large numbers of black Americans, the consequence of dysfunctional cultural habits and dependency on government patronage, are worsened by this fixation on race.
The Bankruptcy of Progressive Politics
Finally, the Obama presidency has shown that stale progressive assumptions and ideas lead to failure both at home and abroad. Obama’s economic polices have been predicated on expanding government’s intrusive power over the economy in order to achieve dubious utopian notions like “income equality,” “social justice,” and “redistribution.” With the economy just starting to climb out of the recession at the start of his term, Obama and the Congressional Democrats hamstrung the recovery with new federal programs, spending, and regulations that have created growth-killing uncertainty among businesses and added over $5 trillion to the national debt. This federal power-grab was peddled with a stale, class-warfare rhetoric about the greedy “1%” who needed to “pay their fair share,” despite the fact that the “1%” already pay 29% of all federal taxes while earning 13.4% of all income. All that Obama’s historically discredited policies have accomplished is unprecedented deficits and debt, more people going on food stamps and disability than have found jobs, real unemployment at 10%, and economic growth stumbling along at 2%.
As for foreign policy, Obama arrogantly believed that his exotic name and experience abroad––coupled to the old internationalist delusion that multi-lateral diplomacy, solicitous out-reach, and flattering speeches were more effective than firmness based on strength––would be enough to make our enemies forget their ideologies, aims, and interests. His international speeches and interviews were larded with the progressive’s distaste for his country and guilt over its presumed crimes. In Europe, he said America has been “arrogant, dismissive, derisive.” He told the Turkish Parliament, “The United States is still working through some of our own darker periods in our history.” In Latin America he confessed, “We have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms,” but now we are ready “to acknowledge past errors where those errors have been made.” And of course in Cairo, he flattered Muslims with false histories of Islam’s “tolerance” and creation of the Renaissance, and apologized for imperialism, colonialism, and the hurtful disrespect of Islam’s magnificence. As a result of these policies of retreat, solicitude, and timidity, he has been bullied by Russia, disrespected by Iran, despaired of by allies like Saudi Arabia; he has colluded in the overthrow of reliable allies like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, unleashed across the region well-armed jihadist gangs, hastened to abandon Iraq and Afghanistan, and alienated and endangered our best ally, Israel. Rather than being more respected, America is now seen as unreliable, weak, and easily bullied or ignored––no better enemy, and no worse friend.
If Obama wins today, expect these dismal trends to worsen––an increase in debt and dependency at home, a decrease of American influence and power abroad, all abetted by dead progressive ideology and a cheerleading media. And count on what George Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson called “the soft racism of low expectations” to keep too many blacks mired in dependence and cultural dysfunction. But even if Romney wins, reversing these trends will be difficult. Weaning Americans off federal entitlements will be politically difficult, as will be a more muscular foreign policy that necessarily entails risks and costs Americans may be unwilling to pay. To paraphrase Churchill, a Romney win will not be the end of these national dysfunctions, or even the beginning of the end. At best it will be the end of the beginning.
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