Media Pumping Obama: Best Dresser, Breakthrough Election, Tough on Terror


By: Warner Todd Huston

In a like vein as the story I posted a few days ago showing Reuters helping cover for Obama by lowering expectations, a trio of stories — two from McClatchy and one from the AP — prove to be little more than empty Obama boostering with little worth as news, though the AP piece at least comes close to being newsworthy. Unfortunately, this is the sort of empty reporting that has become du jour for the Old Media. It’s the media’s covering for the Clinton’s all over again, yet 10-times more intense.

The first story is the most frivolous. It is a McClatchy story about how great Obama dresses. In “Review: Obama’s fashion sense is cool but correct,” we are regaled about what a fashion plate The One is.

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama radiates a certain stylistic sophistication that’s at once Kennedyesque in its reverence for clean-cut, American style and modern in its confident embrace of a look that’s both effortless and urbane.

Seriously? After reading the slobbering over Obama’s “cool” clothes, one has to wonder… do we really elect people because they dress well? Should we? Apparently McClathcy feels we should be governed by the top lights on Blackwell’s best dressed list!

Just look at some of the fawning and meaningless quotes contained in this piece of fluff:

“There’s a very modern thinker there. He’s not the pattern-mixing guy, not even the khaki guy. You’ll very rarely even see him in jeans. He has an urbane, citified kind of palate. He has a vitality to him, and his image transcends race.”   –Jim Moore, the creative director at GQ magazine

Transcends race? What does this even mean in the context of clothing?

“He hasn’t done anything fashion-wise that is terribly radical, but the idea of a black man in a sharp suit has struck people.”   –Mark Anthony Neal, an African-American studies professor at Duke University

Why, because we expect all black men to have their pants about their knees, to be covered in gold chains, sporting false gold teeth and wearing a ball cap sideways? We shouldn’t expect a black man to appear in a “sharp suit”? Is that what Neal is saying? If he is, that seems a vaguely racist sentiment, doesn’t it?

Yet, the story itself goes on to tell us that Obama buys his suits off the rack. So, in reality, Obama’s “style” is not far removed from normal, adult, business attire. This article does show the starstruck nature of these silly people, however. And McClatchy gives it to us as if it were news.

The next McClatchy piece is little but an excuse to remind us all that Obama’s election was “a breakthrough” and that he is a great man no matter what he fails to accomplish. It seems meant as a balm rubbed over one of the most rocky transition phases seen in Washington in a long time. McClatchy here is merely trying to misdirect attention from the many missteps and controversies going on before The One has even stepped his first foot into the White House.

So, remember, McClatchy is sternly telling us, “Whatever Obama accomplishes, his election was a breakthrough.” Failure won’t count, in the end, because of Obama’s “breakthrough,” I suppose.

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama’s Jan. 20 inauguration could be a line where future scholars mark the start of a new era of racial tolerance in America. At the same time, scholars and even Obama loyalists warn that the ultimate meaning of his ascension shouldn’t be written into the history books just yet.

What else is this but a way to warn off Obama critics? In essence, this marshmallow gamesaying of Obama’s “breakthrough” election during a time when his transition seems a bit troubled and in disarray is little else but a warning that if we diss their man we are racists for doing so.

Seriously, is there anyone out there right now… in fact, was there ever anyone out there… that tried to deny the simple fact that Obama’s election was a milestone in race relations in America? And, why are we being so gently reminded that Obama’s election is a landmark occurrence now? Aren’t we all well aware by now that this election was an historic one?

Nothing in this piece is really “news” as the theme of the historic nature of the election of the first black president was hashed out repeatedly over the last year or two. But one thing is glaring; the timing. We are right in the middle of watching Obama seem to flail about with his cabinet picks, his missteps with his own Democratic Congress, and his odd silence on the issues of the day. Obama is taking heat from his own at an increasing rate, yet McClatchy gives us another airy puff piece about the historic nature of his election. It all seems rather geared to soften expectations and cover for the current muddled transition period.

And to round out my three stories comes the only one that has a little bit of newsworthiness to it. But only just. The AP published “Obama seen making more aggressive effort on terror” to show that Obama is surprisingly a tough on terror kind of fellow.

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama apparently plans a more aggressive approach than the Bush administration to helping friendly nations get better at fighting terrorism within their own borders, the State Department’s top counterterrorism official said Tuesday.

First of all, it is highly doubtful that Obama plans to be more aggressive than Bush on matters of this nature. At least not when compared to the campaign rhetoric he and the Democrats’ recently wallowed in, that of cutting and running from everywhere — Guantanamo, Iraq, etc., etc.

But, true or not, this “news” piece is based solely on the word of one man, retired general and now counterterror expert for the State Department, Dell L. Dailey. This AP report is not based on policy announcements. It is not based on policy implementation nor is it even based on public claims by the incoming administration. It relies only on the impression that Mr. Dailey has of what he’s heard from the rhetoric coming from Obama’s transition team members.

“We do see the Obama administration being much, much more aggressive than maybe even their campaign actions indicated,” Dailey said, stressing that he was referring to wider and deeper U.S. engagement with other countries to counter terrorist threats rather than unilateral U.S. military action.

Let’s all be reminded that, for Obama, talk is cheap and talk is also not something he views as in any way cast in stone. Many of the things Obama promised on the campaign trail have already been cast by the wayside and more seems likely to follow.

Now, let me assure you, I am not doubting the integrity of Mr. Dailey. He seems a supremely competent and experienced man. There is no doubt that he is sincerely impressed with the jaw-jaw he is hearing from Obama’s foreign policy team. But jaw-jaw is all it is at this point. We have no actions to back up this new era of good feelings.

And there is one other thing about this report and that is it does not have a secondary source. The whole thing is laid on the shoulders of Mr. Dailey’s assumptions. And one cannot help but feel that there is some wishful thinking on Dailey’s part, too.

And yet, this whole report is tinged with a presentation of fact, instead of that of the opinion of a single man. We get a headline that tells us that Obama is “seen making more aggressive” efforts on terror. But this is misleading. It is closer to the truth that one man feels Obama might be more aggressive on terror than we thought he might and this is not the same as Obama being “seen” as more aggressive. The headline is reinforced in the realm of a pseudo fact by the first paragraph. “Barack Obama apparently plans a more aggressive approach than the Bush administration,” the piece begins. How is this “apparent”? We have one guy that is hopeful that it might be true, but we have nothing that is “apparent” here.

Again, to state the actual facts here, we have no policy, no Obama team public statements and no known outreach to foreign intelligence agencies revealing this supposedly tough stance. Nothing has been reported to back up this claim of Obama’s newfound toughness but the hopes of Mr. Dailey in this AP article.

What we have here are three articles presented as news that really don’t contain much by way of the same. But one common thread runs through all three. That thread is a need to prop up Barack Obama in a time when his transition phase has hit some choppy waters.

As always, the Old Media is standing ever ready to prop up their messiah. And this is the sort of “news” we can expect for the next four years.

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