By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
While the media largely continue to do their best to protect and defend the administration of President Barack Obama, there have been a number of recent examples indicating that such support can no longer be taken for granted. However, criticism remains the exception to the overall coverage, which has shown a reluctance to acknowledge any scandals by this administration, or any policy blunders.
If you go to WhiteHouse.gov, you will see “We Can’t Wait” as one of the main features. Until recently, it said, “We Can’t Wait on Congress. The Time to Act is Now.” The message from the Obama administration is that they are trying to promote their jobs bill, and the Republican-led House is refusing to cooperate. So damn the separation of powers, they’re going to enact their legislative priorities through executive orders and arbitrary actions. The liberal media are perfectly fine with this, because they largely support the Obama agenda. If not in every detail, at least they support the re-election of Barack Obama, so they’re not going to make a fuss.
Obama Running Against Congress, Not on his Record
But the reality is that instead of running on his record as President, Obama is trying to run against what he is in essence calling “a do-nothing Congress.” From January 2009 until January 2011, Obama had large majorities in the House and Senate, got his stimulus bill passed, ObamaCare, and a host of other bills that he brags about. What he failed to do, however, much of which upset his base, included passing or even pushing for comprehensive immigration reform and “Cap and Trade,” closing Guantanamo, and ending the Bush tax cuts. In some cases it was because he didn’t want the political heat, in others it was because he couldn’t get enough Democrats to go along.
In the meantime, the House passed a budget in April that the Senate voted down in May, and the House has passed 15 bills that they call jobs bills, and the Senate hasn’t voted on any of them. But it is in fact the Senate, led by Majority Leader Harry Reid, which has failed to fulfill its constitutional requirement of passing a budget, since April of 2009. So which chamber is the do-nothing Congress? If the Republican bills are so bad, the Senate should take pride in bringing them up for a vote and voting against them. That’s how the process is supposed to work.
President Obama called Congress into session for his address to the joint session right after Labor Day, and introduced his so-called Jobs bill, which he knew had no chance of passing because it was full of tax hikes that Republicans believe will damage any economic recovery. It went down to defeat, including several Democrats and Independents who failed to vote for it. That is when Obama virtually announced his imperial presidency, outlining plans to circumvent Congress at every opportunity. He already had established his go-it-alone attitude by attempting to run much of his agenda through mostly unconfirmed and unaccountable “czars,” of which there are now 45, according to a recent report by Judicial Watch.
Obama’s demagoguing this issue while America and the world are on the brink of a catastrophic economic downfall is nothing short of deceitful, for the sake of short- term political gain.
While the media have been obsessing over the Republican presidential field and the Penn State sex scandal, they have largely ignored or completely downplayed numerous stories that reflect quite negatively on the Obama administration. These stories include serious scandals, and outrageous political decisions meant to help ensure his re-election. They are stories that deserve frequent coverage and discussion, rather than to be framed as partisan bickering, when they are covered at all. For the most part, they receive instead just a smattering of coverage, mostly excluding the sense of urgency and disdain they deserve. Here are a few examples.
Solyndra: Solyndra is a company in the solar panel business, that as part of the administration’s green energy program, received more than half a billion dollars, and then went bankrupt. The signs and warnings were abundant that the business was doomed to fail. But a key investor was a major bundler for President Obama, and had made numerous visits to the White House in the period leading up to the loan approvals. The White House claims many of those visits were to discuss charities. When the House Energy and Commerce Committee issued subpoenas to the White House in early November for additional documents and emails as part of the committee’s ongoing investigation, the White House said no. It had already provided over 80,000 pages, and that was enough. A few days later they announced they would turn over an additional 135 pages, but that was it. This battle will continue for a while.
But during the process, a new book came out, Throw Them All Out, by Peter Schweizer of The Heritage Foundation and Breitbart.com. Schweizer demonstrates that Solyndra is just the tip of the iceberg. He was featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes and in Newsweek magazine with stories from the book. In an article about Schweizer’s findings on Big Government, a Breitbart site, Wynton Hall pointed out that “At least ten members of President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign finance committee, plus more than a dozen of his campaign bundlers, benefited from sweetheart loans through the Department of Energy (DOE) that collectively dwarfed those given to Solyndra and Fisker [Automotive].” Schweizer also found that “80% of all $20.5 billion in Department of Energy loans went to President Obama’s top donors.” Schweizer says that the Obama administration may be guilty of “the greatest—and most expensive—example of crony capitalism in American history.”
In a rare front-page story on Solyndra, The Washington Post, on November 15, reported that the Obama administration had asked Solyndra to “delay announcing it would lay off workers until after the hotly contested November 2010 midterm elections that imperiled Democratic control of Congress,” according to newly released e-mails. Pay day for the top brass was not delayed, however. The Solyndra executives took substantial bonuses just before the company went bankrupt.
Operation Fast and Furious: I wrote a recent AIM Report about this scandal. Since then, Attorney General Eric Holder went back before a House committee to answer more questions, and to clear up some of his previous statements. It was a disastrous performance, in which he claimed not to have seen numerous emails addressed to him personally. He also claimed the discrepancy in the accounts of when he had heard about this scandal was insignificant. The government allowed weapons to be sold to gunrunners, and in some cases originally purchased them before reselling them. They claimed that the idea was to track these weapons as they fell into the hands of the competing gangs of the Mexican drug cartels. But the Mexican government was never informed, and hundreds of people have been killed by weapons that were part of the program. The dead included Border Agent Brian Terry and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Jaime Zapata.
No-bid contract for Siga: According to a report in The Los Angeles Times, the Obama administration “aggressively pushed a $433-million plan to buy an experimental smallpox drug, despite uncertainty over whether it is needed or will work.” The article said that senior officials in the administration took “unusual steps” to make sure that Siga Technologies, a New York based company, secured the contract. The controlling shareholder of Siga is billionaire Ron Perelman, a major Democratic Party donor.
According to the Times, Siga complained that officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) were “resisting the company’s financial demands.” So those officials were replaced by more senior officials, who then blocked other firms from competing and awarded Siga a no-bid, or “sole-source,” procurement.
More corruption at the DOE: The Office of the Inspector General issued a report on how well the Department of Energy has spent its stimulus dollars from the so-called Recovery Act. “You’ll be delighted to know that more than a hundred criminal investigations were launched into Energy’s handling of its mere 4% of the Obama stimulus,” reported Human Events. “[Gregory] Friedman [the IG of DOE] says ‘these involve various schemes, including the submission of false information, claims for unallowable or unauthorized expenses, and other improper uses of Recovery Act funds.’ Five criminal prosecutions have resulted, and over $2.3 million in stolen ‘stimulus’ loot has been recovered.”
One problem in all this is figuring out when a scandal is actually a scandal, and not just some partisan accusation. According to a blog post by Elspeth Reeve on The Atlantic Wire, part of The Atlantic magazine website, a scandal becomes a scandal “once the S-word is used in a reporter’s own voice in a story that runs on the front page of the [Washington] Post.” This is according to Dartmouth professor Brendan Nyhan, who said that “political scientists generally see The Washington Post as a solid indicator of elite opinion.” Thus, according to these standards, neither Fast and Furious nor Solyndra rise to the level of scandal for the Obama administration. As a matter of fact they use this standard to argue that Obama has recently set the record for the most scandal-free days of any administration since 1977.
Dana Milbank, one of the Post star reporters who apparently subscribes to this nonsense watched the Fast and Furious hearing where Eric Holder testified. “Without a doubt, the operation was a debacle,” wrote Milbank, “and it has led to untold bloodshed and friction with Mexico. The ATF’s acting chief has been reassigned, and subpoenas are flying on Capitol Hill. But it has not reached the level of a political scandal.” It got close when another Post reporter, Juliet Eilperin, called it a “controversy.” Pretty harsh.
Pipeline from Canada: In at least this one instance, Obama’s motto became “We can wait.” Here he’s referring to the Keystone XL Pipeline which offered the dual benefit of tens of thousands of good-paying jobs and help to solve our energy issues. The pipeline would transport 700,000 barrels a day of crude coming from Alberta, Canada into the U.S. But Obama chose to vote “present” on this one, and thought it better to not alienate the extreme environmentalists. He moved the decision making past next year’s election and hoped no one would notice, or care. But he should know, “The whole world is watching.”
Approval of Muslim Brotherhood involvement in new Arab governments: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech in early November in which she announced the Obama administration’s lack of concern about the rise of Islamist parties throughout the Middle East. The Arab Spring has seen their power rise in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Sec. Clinton told the National Democratic Institute (NDI) awards dinner that “what parties call themselves is less important than what they do.” One of her aides said, “We’re less concerned about whether Islamists win or lose than we are about whether democracy is winning or losing in the process.”
Barry Rubin, the editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, is very concerned about the implications of this speech by Ms. Clinton. He wrote, “The speech can be summarized as follows:
“Islamist regimes—at least those whose ‘behavior’ is proper—are good. If Islamists exercise political power they will be moderate. Thus, the United States will not merely tolerate but will actually support Islamists taking power.”
He said that “The Obama Administration is now on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizballah, and the Taliban (“moderate” wing).
Even before the acknowledgement on November 21 that the so-called Congressional supercommittee had to admit that it failed in its effort to come to an agreement on what they call “cutting spending” by $1.2 trillion over the next decade, many in the media were starting to become more critical of Obama over various issues. On that day, November 21, it seemed to be a sea change as journalists like Howard Fineman and David Gergen joined the chorus talking about how Obama had failed by not offering any leadership in the negotiations.
But these criticisms of Obama have been rare nuggets that one finds here and there. There is no sustained criticism in the mainstream media about corruption or incompetence or even lack of leadership. As much as he might frustrate them, they still want to see him re-elected.
Here are a few recent examples of the media taking Obama to task, from unlikely sources:
Mark Halperin wrote in the November 7th Time magazine, “Democrats on Capitol Hill privately display nearly as much disdain for the Administration as their GOP counterparts, complaining about both its incompetence and its ideology. Most of all, Obama now owns a weak economy and hasn’t been able to generate his own luck.”
From an October 31st editorial in The Los Angeles Times titled, “Obama’s Secrets:” “One of the most disappointing attributes of the Obama administration has been its proclivity for secrecy. The president who committed himself to ‘an unprecedented level of openness in government’ has followed the example of his predecessor by invoking the ‘state secrets’ privilege to derail litigation about government misdeeds in the war on terror. He has refused to release the administration’s secret interpretation of the Patriot Act, which two senators have described as alarming. He has blocked the dissemination of photographs documenting the abuse of prisoners by U.S. service members. And now his Justice Department has proposed to allow government agencies to lie about the existence of documents being sought under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.”
The L.A. Times piece continues, saying the “policy is outrageous. It provides a license for the government to lie to its own people and makes a mockery of FOIA.” And it concludes by saying that “The Justice Department should discard the rule and start over. And Obama should reread his pronouncements about transparent government.”
Another example of criticism from the left came from Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, leading up to the deadline of the supercommittee. “Here we are in America again on the eve of a major budgetary decision by yet another bipartisan ‘supercommittee,’ and does anyone know what President Obama’s preferred outcome is? Exactly which taxes does he want raised, and which spending does he want cut? The president’s politics on this issue seems to be a bowl of poll-tested mush.”
Politico carried a column titled “Bill Daley Unplugged,” by Roger Simon. Daley is Obama’s chief of staff, who came in to replace Rahm Emanuel who left to run for mayor of Chicago. Daley spoke out of turn, and reportedly as a result saw his job cut way back. New York magazine said he was demoted.
Daley said, “all President Obama has to do to achieve this [better economic times before the election] is make a startling end run around not just the Republicans but also the Democrats, in Congress.
He added, “On the domestic side, both Democrats and Republicans have really made it very difficult for the president to be anything like a chief executive,” which “has led to a kind of frustration.”
These comments have hurt Obama, who until recently knew he could count on just about everyone in the mainstream media to hold their tongues if they had anything to say that wasn’t laudatory or could be used against Obama and his agenda. Unfortunately, this honest criticism is still a rare occurrence in the mainstream media.
Dear Fellow Media Watchdogs:
In this report I’ve cited several signs that indicate trouble ahead for President Obama. Several media figures who have adored him, and have been very supportive of his presidency have begun to feel emboldened to criticize him. It’s more like tough love than switching sides, but taken together, it is significant nonetheless. Here are a couple more examples.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper went after Obama recently when as part of his “We can’t wait” campaign, Obama announced a new plan to allow people whose houses are worth less than their mortgages to refinance at lower rates if they have a good payment history.
But Cooper wasn’t buying it. He said, “it’s merely the latest in a long line of programs, 10 so far, that have not lived up to their promises. Not even close.”
He then showed video of Obama saying that through a previous plan he had announced, “we will help between seven and nine million families…avoid foreclosure.”
Cooper then pointed out that instead it ended up only helping about 1.6 million people. He added that “out of the $50 billion the Obama administration promised to spend to help homeowners, only a fraction, $2.4 billion has actually been spent.”
CNN’s White House correspondent Jessica Yellin stated that the homeowners most affected are people in hard-hit states such as Nevada, Arizona and Florida. She said, “there is a large part of this that is politics because these are the states the President does have to win in 2012.”
And perhaps most surprising of all were recent comments by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. Matthews has been a harsh critic of the Tea Party and the entire Republican field seeking the GOP nomination. He famously said during the presidential campaign of 2008 that he “felt this thrill going up my leg” following an Obama speech.
But in a recent interview, Matthews expressed his frustration with Obama’s presidency, before falling back in line. It was his harshest criticism to date:
“There’s nothing to root for. What are we trying to do in this administration? Why does he want a second term? Would he tell us? What’s he going to do in his second term, more of this? Is this it? Is this as good as it gets? Where are we going?
“He has not said one thing about what he’d do in his second term. He never tells what he’s going to do with reforming our healthcare systems, Medicare, Medicaid, how he’s going to reform Social Security. Is he going to deal with longterm debt? How? Is he going to reform the tax system? How? Just tell us,” he said.
Matthews then reverted to form. Sort of. “Just tell us, Commander. Give us our orders and tell us where we’re going. Give us the mission. And he hasn’t done it.”
For Accuracy in Media,
Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.