Saturday, March 19, 2011

Overwrought Reaction


The online edition, pittsburghlive.com, of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review asks rhetorically in an editorial on Friday:

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama appeared on ESPN to announce his picks for the NCAA basketball tournament.

Earlier in the week, he gave "exclusive" interviews to TV stations from around the country -- including Pittsburgh's KDKA -- on "education reform." (KDKA's story catapulted pro forma local TV video stenography to news lows.)

Saturday last, when not giving his weekly radio address on the critically important issue of Women's History Month, Obama was playing golf -- reported to be the 61st round of his presidency -- joking that it was not "playing" at all but an "investment."

That was fast on the heels of his riveting summit on "bullying."

Can you imagine how the mainstream media would have reacted to such disconnected behavior had it been a Republican president?


Actually, we don't have to imagine how the mainstream media would have reacted to a similar response by a Repub president. Nor do we have to go back much in time. Researchers Allan Wood and Paul Thompson remind us

At approximately 8:48 a.m. on the morning of September 11, 2001, the first pictures of the burning World Trade Center were broadcast on live television. The news anchors, reporters, and viewers had little idea what had happened in lower Manhattan, but there were some people who did know. By that time, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the National Military Command Center, the Pentagon, the White House, the Secret Service, and Canada’s Strategic Command all knew that three commercial airplanes had been hijacked. They knew that one plane had been flown deliberately into the World Trade Center’s North Tower; a second plane was wildly off course and also heading toward Manhattan; and a third plane had abruptly turned around over Ohio and was flying back toward Washington, DC.

So why, at 9:03 a.m.—fifteen minutes after it was clear the United States was under terrorist attack—did President Bush sit down with a classroom of second-graders and begin a 20-minute pre-planned photo op? No one knows the answer to that question. In fact, no one has even asked Bush about it.


No one asked President Bush why it was more important for him to be photographed with schoolchildren than to act upon the threat to the nation from the most deadly terrorist attack in world history. Nor- until popular support for the Iraq war declined significantly- were many questions asked about the White House's lackadaisical response to this portion of the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing:

Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate bin Laden since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US. Bin Laden implied in U.S. television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and "bring the fighting to America.

Nor have many questions ever been asked about the Administration's seeming lack of concern prior to 9/11/01 toward the terrorist threat, which included the effort of the Attorney General on 9/10/01 "to slash funding from counterterrorism and grants and other homeland defense programs."

It is probably of little concern to the millions- tens of millions?- of Americans in NCAA playoff pools that President Obama also is interested in the outcome of the tournament. The Trib-Review, if it were preferred to ask the tough questions to dwelling in trivia, might ponder the national obsession over athletics that inspires male politicians to point and say "hey, look, at me, I like sports, too." And while playing golf is indefensible (for anyone, at any time), it is a relatively harmless way for the President to ingratiate himself with a Wall Street crowd that helped bankroll his 2008 campaign but now is showering the opposing party with cash.

So, yes, we know how the mainstream media reacted to President Bush turning a blind eye to a national emergency- the terrorist peril before the September '01 attacks- and his inattention during a national emergency. This President has addressed, effectively or otherwise, the situations in Egypt, Libya, and Japan. If the mainstream media has viewed Mr. Obama's approach insufficiently critically, it is only part of a pattern which politically benefited his predecessor, enabling the latter's reelection and completion of two terms without threat of impeachment.




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