Blogs > HNN > The Audacity of Obama

Jul 30, 2008 3:05 pm


The Audacity of Obama



Dana Milbank of the Washington Post is an unexceptional columnist, often offering so-so soufflés inflated by the sound of his own self-important voice. But don’t discount him because he practices journalism lite – his sense of self-importance is far more representative of today’s journalists than the profession would like to admit. Many journalists today aspire not to report but to comment. They want to become pundits, not gumshoe reporters. They seek a voice, not neutrality. And when they eye politicians climbing the public ladder, they like to bring them down a notch. After all, many reporters think they know more than these benighted folks who run our country. If a politician doesn’t show journalists proper obeisance, then beware – you’re now fair game for a media comeuppance.

Enter Milbank and his searing, snide column about Obama today (July 30). If Milbank is any indication of media zeitgeist, and for many reasons I think he is, then Obama better watch his back. The media are about to trip him up.

What Milbank wrote, essentially, is that Obama has gotten too big for his own good. Obama, in Milbank’s eyes, has an inflated self-image and a vain, narcissistic streak. He’s become a self-referential candidate, someone who thinks he is the movement that will lead him to the White House. “Barack Obama,” Milbank writes, “has long been his party's presumptive nominee. Now he's becoming its presumptuous nominee.” As Milbank describes it with his journalistic sneer, Obama orders up teleconferences, travels “in a bubble more insulating than the actual president’s,” and feels “confident enough” to give political advice to foreign heads of state.

He then offers up a devastatingly egotistical quote from Obama, likely taken out of context as is often the case with the press: "This is the moment . . . that the world is waiting for," Obama apparently said in a talk with Democratic members of the House. "I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions."

The first media draft on Obama’s overseas trip was awe and admiration – for the flawlessness of the imagery, the presidential qualities that Obama displayed, the message that he can lead America and the world in perilous times and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with foreign leaders.

But now a second draft is being written, and it oozes with media resentment – that Obama is presumptuous, egotistical, infused with moral vanity and deep self-importance. For the press, the overseas trip now fits a pattern of arrogance, audacity, and hubris that they increasingly see as characteristic of Obama. Filled with their own self-importance, the media feel a need to humble him.

John McCain will certainly fuel this emerging media narrative, and he has every interest in doing so. The McCain camp first tried to define Obama as a flip-flopper, but that didn’t work. Now they’re suggesting that Obama has no values other than a belief in himself and his own ambition. With the media beginning to pick up this theme as well, the Obama campaign better take note. That could be the Swift Boat frame of the 2008 election.



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Yanpei Huang - 8/1/2008

During the Vietnam War, commendations and medals were very easy to obtain, especially for someone as determined was Kerry was. The evidence is pretty strong, despite what is in his file, that he pursued his awards with sufficient diligence to raise doubts about his intentions.

All of that should have been considered water under the bridge by 2004, but Kerry himself raised the question by presenting himself to the nation as a man who was qualified by his military experience to be commander in chief. If I am not mistaken, "I am John Kerry, and I am reporting for duty," is the way he introduced himself at the Democratic convention. I guess he could not resist the temptation to claim the status of a hero, something for which the evidence suggests he was alrealdy preparing as a young officer in Vietnam.

Of course, what bothered the Swiftboaters most, I think, was the language Kerry used in his April 22, 1971, testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It really was unfortunate that he spoke the way he did. After all, the gist of what he said was correct--Vietnam was a stupid war--but some of the accusations he leveled at the military were over the top. Kerry should have known better, and he could have defused much of the Swift Boater's criticism if he had recanted some of what he said and corrected the record. That he chose not do do so raised other good questions about his fitness to serve as the CinC. Like Obama, apparently, he has a hard time admitting it when he is wrong.


Mike A Mainello - 8/1/2008

please, direct me to a site that shows he released his records. To my knowledge he has not ever released his records.

He was offered 1 million by T Boone Pickens to release his records and still has not released his records.


Sheldon M. Stern - 8/1/2008

I know it is a waste of time to supply true believers with facts. Nonetheless, when Kerry finally released his military records, well after the 2004 election, they revealed that the swift boaters were lying. He even had commendations by leaders of the swift boat smear campaign.


Yanpei Huang - 8/1/2008

I am shocked, utterly shocked! A liberal attacking the media because he does not like the message! Who'd a thunk it?

By the way, the Swift Boaters were right!


Mike A Mainello - 7/31/2008

Mr. Steinhorn, I had such high hopes when I started reading your article. Finally someone in academia would see the press for the partisans they have become, but you were only mad because the guy ripped into the Obamamessiah.

Just think if President Bush didn't have to let the press into every event he held and his PR people could put out propaganda without the media being able to comment. Oh what a wonderful world it would be.

Have a nice day.


Robert L Miller - 7/30/2008

You're right, Mr. Steinhorn. The quote was truncated to change the meaning to fit Mr. Milbank's premise. Accoding to TheAtlantic.com, (http://marcambinder.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/07/messiah_well_actually.php) what he said was:

"It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign, that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It's about America. I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions."

Which is something else, isn't it? Actually, I've like Dana Milbank in the past, so I was sorry to see him being so sloppy. Or dishonest.