Right-Wingers Are Desperately Trying to Destroy Obama, and the Cowardly Corporate Media Are Helping
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While the right-wing media denounces Obama as a "socialist" and Republican activists are organizing "tea parties" to protest taxes, the mainstream media continues to follow the old dynamic of framing political issues in ways most favorable to Republicans and least sympathetic to Democrats.
On CNN’s "State of the Union" Sunday, in an interview with Gen. Ray Odierno, host John King pushed a favorite media myth about President Bush’s successful "surge" in Iraq. King never mentioned that many factors in the declining Iraqi violence predated or were unrelated to Bush’s dispatch of additional troops, nor did King note the contradiction about Bush’s supposed "success" and Odierno’s warning that he may have to urge more delays in withdrawing U.S. troops.
The commentariat class also has continued to frame the Republican hatred of Obama as Obama’s fault, describing his "failure" to achieve a more bipartisan Washington or -- in its latest formulation -- calling Obama "the most polarizing President ever."
It might seem counterintuitive to call a President with approval ratings in the 60 percentiles "polarizing" -- when that term was not applied to George W. Bush with his numbers half that of Obama’s. But this notion has arisen because Republicans have turned harshly against Obama, while Democrats and Independents have remained supportive.
This gap of about 60 points between Democratic approval and Republican disapproval is called the largest in the modern era. (Bush presumably was less "polarizing" because his Republican numbers slumped along with his approval from Democrats and Independents.)
What is rarely acknowledged is that the Republican Party has both shrunk in size and retreated toward its hard-line "base," meaning that the "polarization gap" could simply reflect the fact that a smaller, more extreme Republican Party hates Obama, while other presidents faced a larger, more moderate opposition party.
Rather, according to the Washington pundit class, this gap is Obama’s fault, much as he was blamed for "failing" to attract Republican votes for his stimulus bill and his budget. Rarely do the pundits lay the blame on the Republicans who have taken a position of near unanimous opposition to Obama, much as they did toward Clinton 16 years ago.
Instead of seeing a pattern -- that Republicans may hope to torpedo Obama’s presidency and reclaim congressional control , as they did in 1993-94 -- the Washington press corps describes the Republicans as holding firm to their small-government principles and the Democrats as refusing to give due consideration to GOP alternatives.
Already a new conventional wisdom is taking shape, that "polarizing" Obama would be wrong to use the "reconciliation" process to enact health-care and environmental programs by majority vote, that he should instead water them down and seek enough Republican votes to overcome GOP filibusters in the Senate, which require 60 votes to stop.
To get enough Republican votes on health care would almost surely mean eliminating a public alternative that would compete with private insurers, and on the environment, cap-and-trade plans for curbing carbon emissions would have to be shelved.
But that is the course that the pundit class generally favors, while demanding that Obama and the Democrats, not the Republicans, take the necessary steps toward cooperation.
"It will continue to behoove Obama to woo Republican help -- no matter how tough the odds," wrote Washington Post columnist David Broder on Sunday. "Presidents who hope to achieve great things cannot for long rely on using their congressional majorities to muscle things through."
But if Obama takes the advice of Broder and other pundits and dilutes his proposals to make them acceptable to Republicans, the President will surely draw the wrath of the Democratic "base," which will accuse him of selling out. The vicious cycle will have rotated once again.