The current media narrative on the Obama presidency is simply naive

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Few men have given rise to as many delusions, false expectations, and deliberate confusions as Barack Obama, a phenomenon fueled by both foes and supporters.

I just don’t understand when I read stories like this from good reporters in the NYT:

If passage of the financial regulatory overhaul on Thursday proves anything about President Obama, it is this: He knows how to push big bills through a balky Congress.

President Obama has said that he believes the agenda he has pursued is “the right thing to do for America.”

But Mr. Obama’s legislative success poses a paradox: while he may be winning on Capitol Hill, he is losing with voters at a time of economic distress, and soon may be forced to scale back his ambitions.

He knows how to push big bills through Congress?

John Aravosis (DC) on 7/16/2010  | [print_link]

Mr. Obama has done what he promised when he ran for office in 2008: he has used government as an instrument to try to narrow the gaps between the haves and the have-nots. He has injected $787 billion in tax dollars into the economy, provided health coverage to 32 million uninsured and now, reordered the relationship among Washington, Wall Street, investors and consumers.

But as he has done so, the political context has changed around him. Today, with unemployment remaining persistently near double digits despite the scale of the stimulus program and the BP oil spill having raised questions about his administration’s competence, Mr. Obama’s signature legislation is providing ammunition to conservatives who argue that government is the problem, not the solution.

He’s done what he promised during the campaign?

Well, if you accept the White House talking point that passing anything that contains the title of the thing you promised, is in fact passing the thing itself, then yes the President has been wildly successful. For example, the President said during the campaign that he was going to push for a public option in health care reform, he didn’t push for it at all. But he did pass a bill that was called “health care reform,” so using the logic of this article, that means he kept his promise.

Or on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the President promised a full repeal. In fact, the current legislation does no such thing. But it is legislation entitled DADT, so, again, under this logic, the President has kept his promise.

It’s a bit like baking a stone and calling it a cake, then telling your child: “what? – I promised you a cake, here’s a cake.”

I might expect this kind of naivete from regular Americans who might not follow legislation as closely as those of us inside the beltway – it would be understandable how they might think the HCR bill that passed was in line with what the President talked about during the campaign. But for NYT reporters to buy the White House line that anything is everything, is disturbing.

Take the stimulus. The reporter notes that Obama “has injected $787 billion in tax dollars into the economy.” Yes he has. And it wasn’t enough, he knew it wasn’t enough, and now we have nearly 10% unemployment as a result, hurting Democrats’ chances for re-election in the fall, and dooming the country to a listless recovery for years to come. How is that something to laud? Is it better than nothing? Yes. But so is the doctor who gives the patient only half of his needed cancer meds. It’s certainly better than nothing. It’s also malpractice.

When the economy is on death’s door, you don’t push for half of what you know is needed. The President did just that. It’s what he does on most legislation, and most of his promises. He pushes for half, or at least something far less than what he promised. He pushes for half from the outset. Not at the end when you might have to compromise, but from the beginning. And that’s his problem, and the reason, at least one of the reasons, so many Democrats and Independents are unhappy with him. He comes off weak.

Imagine you’re selling your house. It’s assessed at $400,000, but you and your spouse decide to ask for $420,000, to make a small profit. You receive an offer for $380,000, less than what you wanted. Because you really really really want to nail this deal, at all costs, you counter with $200,000 and the guy accepts. You just sold your house! Congratulations! But because you were so desperate to sell, you didn’t even bargain with the guy – you simply negotiated with yourself and offered him a price that you thought he’d take. Sure you got only half of what you could get, half of what you deserved, BUT YOU GOT THE DEAL, just like your promised your spouse you would. And not only that, you didn’t have to fight for it! Woo woo! The NYT will surely do a story about what a great home seller you are, since you did exactly what you promised – you sold that house.

John Aravosis is a DC-based writer and political consultant, specializing in using the Internet for politics. He is the editor of, one of America’s top progressive political blogs, with over 300,000 unique visitors per month. John has a joint law degree and masters in foreign service from Georgetown, and his writing experience includes working as a stringer for the Economist magazine and RADAR.

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