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Eye on the News

Clark Whelton
Death by Media
President Obama’s current woes and his cozy relationship with the press
21 May 2013

Revelations concerning Benghazi, the IRS, and government probing of the Associated Press make it increasingly clear that Barack Obama was led astray by his friends in the media. They intended no harm to the president, needless to say. But by withholding the criticism that prods public officials into doing a better job, by choosing not to print negative stories and commentaries about the Obama administration, the press corps tempted the president and his staff with visions of invincibility. The pro-Obama news crew—with a boost from the Nobel Peace Prize committee—confirmed the president’s exalted view of himself. They are in part responsible for encouraging Obama to think that he could tamper with the truth about Benghazi and get away with it.

Through two presidential campaigns and Obama’s first term, mainstream editors, editorial writers, and journalists served as de facto auxiliaries for the White House press office. Certain that they were serving a noble cause, they soft-pedaled bad news about the economy and ignored or played down the president’s gaffes. Aided by one-liners from late-night talk-show hosts, they attacked and ridiculed Fox News or any reporter, radio commentator, writer, or blogger not riding Obama’s bandwagon. They hounded and harassed Sarah Palin—author Joe McGinnis even moved next door to her home—determined to destroy someone they perceived as a threat to Obama’s power. They rode shotgun as Obamacare made its way through Congress. And they led the chorus of derision that greeted early reports of political corruption inside the IRS.

Last September, when Mitt Romney raised questions about Benghazi, the mainstream media accused the Republican presidential challenger of “politicizing” the issue. Taking their leads from Democratic press releases, they kept the spotlight on Romney’s supposed missteps, giving the Obama administration time to camouflage a murderous terror attack as a spontaneous riot. And with each alibi they provided, with each news story they slanted to assist Obama at the polls, they deprived the president of the honest feedback that public officials may not want but desperately need. A biased press corps steadily pushed the president closer to the precipice where he now precariously stands.

In the morning, those who have engaged in whorish behavior—or in this case, those rewarded with invitations to insider Washington parties and access to private e-mail lists—are somehow astonished by a lack of respect. Members of the media, including Associated Press reporters, after favoring and flattering Obama for years, were stunned to discover that Obama’s Department of Justice was treating them like tarts and had targeted the AP with secret subpoenas.

The end of the affair is always painful and poignant. Unaccustomed to sunlight, fleeing suspicions of malfeasance and outright criminality, the Obama administration is pleading guilty to incompetence and ignorance. Benghazi? Hey, who knew the Libyans to whom we had been secretly running guns would turn them on us? We didn’t want to make things worse by calling the cops. Besides, we knew the media would let the story die. The IRS? Shock. Outrage. Never heard of the place.

An independent press is a compass, a vital part of the American system of checks and balances. It can provide the ship of state with mid-course corrections. But a compass that swings any way the helmsman wants is worse than useless. It points the way to disaster.

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