The media is often pushing the question of whether President Obama is living up to his campaign promises. I have seen very little narrative from the media, outside of Rachel's show, on what Obama has actually accomplished. The list is quite long and it matches up nicely with his campaign pledges.
It is not perfect, but is that the standard we are holding Obama to? Is this the standard the media talking heads are holding him to? Is the model the most base, most simplistic understanding of the world and then applying an absurd narrative on top of it?
Rather than honestly report what Obama has done, the media's constant focus is on what he has not done, or, supposedly not done. And the standards applied to the left are certainly not applied to the right. Neither are the mannerisms.
This is what John King exhibited to me this morning. I missed the 8 o'clock shows because of this silly daylight savings time, so I caught a bit of King's show, and have determined he is the moon that orbits planet Blitzer.
Below are two back to back interviews King had this morning; one with Peter Orszag, the current Director of the OMB, and the other with Representative Eric Cantor, the vapid Minority Whip.
In the first, John King tightens hard on an absurd tack, interrupting and constantly reenforcing a notion of Americans displeasure with the new spending bill. King lays the earmarks in this bill at Obama's feet using footage from his campaign as evidence of Obama faltering on promises.
Orszag informs the botoxed face of John King that this spending bill was negotiated in the autumn, not under the Obama Administration's guidance, that it wouldn't be possible to go back into and gut it, basically undoing all those negotiations, that they would have to wait until next autumn; that essentially this was akin to a pitcher coming in the game in the ninth inning.
Orszag looked a bit like he was talking to a five year old.
Orszag: Look, would we have written this thing differently, absolutely, but we face a basic choice here which is, this was negotiated last fall, it's been baked in, it includes some important initiatives, like money to fight health care fraud, funding for education, Pell grants, funding for health care; so we face a basic question: is it uglier than we like? Yes, but this was negotiated last year and we think we should move on.
When we are engaged in the fiscal year 2010, when we are involved in the appropriations process, it's going to look a lot different
King: We'll hold you to that promise, but I want you to listen to candidate Obama. This was one of the central premises of his candidacy, the reason why he said he was unique among the presidential candidates, that he had not been here long enough to be poisoned by Washington. Let's listen.
Obama at campaign rally (8-19-2008): We are not going to change anything until we change how business is done is Washington. That's one of the reasons I decided to get into this race in the first place.
King: He didn't say, 'I'll start in six months'. He became President on January 20th. I understand the political argument: 'he has so many balls in play', you want to save some chips for down the road, but he could get some of this out of here, he could go to the Rose Garden and look the American people in the eye and say, 'I'm sorry, you have to take some of these things out, Americans are facing incredibly tough choices. This can not happen.'
Orszag: And it will not happen when the President has the full legislative and appropriations process in place. Look at what happened under the Recovery Act. The President led, and there were zero earmarks. We are going to fulfill the President's vision here, making earmarks more transparent, but again, I want to come back, t is like stepping in in the ninth inning. You can't just redo the whole game -
King (interrupting): But sometimes the pitcher comes in in the ninth inning and changes the game. Changes the game!
Orszag: But you can't change the rules of the game and go back to the earlier innings -
King (insistent and interrupting): But you can change the dynamics of the game, Peter, you can.
Orszag: I am just going to come back and say again, if you look at where the congress is, this was negotiated between the House and the Senate. Would we like to get the earmarks down further, yes, would we like to make them more transparent, yes, will that happen in the future, yes, we've been in office less than eight weeks, this was negotiated before we came into office. We need to get this out of the way and move onto serious business that will included next year when we are in charge and you can hold us responsible, a much different ball game.
King (speaking for voters): Well, I am not sure that the people who voted for Barack Obama, or against, can't say that we can't hold you responsible for the first lead up. Let me try an analogy, if I ran for mayor on an anti-crime platform and there was a gang out there robbing banks, do you think I could look the people in my city in the eye and say, 'well the gangs doing that started last year, I'll get the new gangs that come in this year.' You say it's the ninth inning, but you are responsible for what goes on in the country. He could stop some of this.
Orszag (amazed King is so deft): I.. ... Ahhh. I don't think that is correct....
So essentially, in John King's world, he is expecting Obama to be a ninth inning pitcher, not on steroids I am sure, to come in and completely change the game that has been ruined up until now. Or in John King's world, he knows just what President Obama could or should do and since he isn't doing what John King thinks he should be doing he's not living up to the central thesis of his campaign. Or in John King's world Obama is not acting fast enough.
In John King's world, he doesn't want to mention the first 8 innings. In John King's world, he can speak for American voters, he can decide their decisions right there on live teevee.
I'd like John King to look me in the eye and tell me he was as tough on Eric Cantor, that he interrupted him, and insisted on trivial analogies to navigate a simple boat through a nuanced sea.
He only has one follow-up question for Cantor. All the other answers Cantor gives, laden with all that GOP misinformation, was totally unchecked by King. Things like the rail from Vegas to Disneyland, which was not in the bill and is a total fallacy, King did not challenge.
The one time King did play tough, when he listed Republican earmarks and asked if this undermined the Republican argument that this is wasteful spending Cantor replied:
Cantor: Let's call it how it is. First of all, if you make a promise, people expect you to live up to it, and that's why this Administration's refusal to go in and change this bill, I think is a false position. There is no way anyone could take what Mr. Orszag has said with any credibility...
When King asks the question again, Cantor gives a baloney answer and King moves on. He doesn't insist on an answer of substance, he doesn't insist that the GOP's argument against earmarks is bogus based on their own earmarks, he just moves. He doesn't even bother to say, "Hey, you're blaming Obama for your party's earmarks? Don't you think that's a little crazy?"
And this is after Cantor blamed the stock market crashing on Obama, went into length about a spending freeze, and mustered up a bunch of phoney outrage on Vegas to Disneyland railways, all without a follow up or insistence on facts from John King.
This is the double standard in the media that bothers me the most. The blow hards at FOX and CNBC are one thing, they take a position and they argue it mercilessly. These interviews like John King's are the more subtle variety. They bring up illogical standards and insist on "how can it be???" They interrupt and they persist, but never are they conversing, they are pushing a narrative.
If King had been such a doofus with Eric Cantor, I'd have no point, but King wasn't. He was conciliatory. He didn't interrupt him once. He only asked one or two follow-ups and didn't become insistent when Cantor just weaved a new web with the same yarn.
If King truly were an independent voice, an unbiased interviewer, he wouldn't have focused so narrowly on this spending bill being a full representation of Obama's campaign promises. King would have operated from a premise and context of what Obama has done. He wouldn't insist on the magic pitcher. He wouldn't allow Cantor to blame the stock market crashing on Obama. He wouldn't have allowed Cantor to float the phoney rail story across the airwaves unchecked again.
But then he wouldn't be John King...