I have been on a media fast for the past few weeks. No cable news, no internets, no nothing... I needed to finish working on a writing project that I had put off for too long. I have to admit to cheating by watching my local news here in Chicago. So it wasn't a complete media fast...
Tonight I returned to the fold to watch the Daily Show. Wow! I must have lost my sense of humor in the last few weeks. This was a decidedly unfunny episode. I want to take a moment to deconstruct it for a few minutes.
So what I gather is that John Stewart is pissed off that the President hasn't stopped the oil leak, made sure that the shores are clean, closed Guantanamo, written the legislation for Wall Street reform, created 24 million jobs -- all in 17 months? Am I right about this?
I found myself perplexed by his rant, I have to be honest so I went searching for more clarification about what seems to have set his off. Apparently, the President said that he was looking for someone's ass to kick over the BP oil disaster. So I went to look for that clip and stumbled upon a transcript of what the President actually said:
LAUER: Critics are now talking about your style, which is the first time I've heard that in a long time. They're saying here is a guy who likes to be known as cool and calm and collected, and this isn't the time for cool, calm and collected. This is not the time to meet with experts and advisers; this is a time to spend more time in the Gulf and — I never thought I'd say this to a president — but kick some butt. And I don't mean it to be funny.
OBAMA: No, and I understand. And here's what — I'm going to push back hard on this. Because I think that this is a — just an idea that got in folks heads, and the media's run with it. I was down there a month ago, before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the Gulf. A month ago I was meeting with fishermen down there, standing in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be. And I don't sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers so I know whose ass to kick.
So apparently the President was actually responding the wording intimated by a reporter's question. This was no false bravado as Stewart would have you believe. This was no George W. Bush -- we're going to get Bin Laden "Dead or Alive" fake John Wayneness... So there's strike #1 of the premise of Stewart's rant. The Obama is Bush tripe is truly TIRED. But since the premise of Stewart's rant was that nothing is really "THAT" complex, I shouldn't be surprised.
Kevin Drum of Mother Jones had this to say about NBC News's propaganda:
Well, that explains it. Obama's seemingly odd answer about why he talks to experts was a direct reply to the question Lauer asked and to the way Lauer phrased it. But none of us knew that because NBC chose to release only a part of Obama's answer and none of Lauer's question. They knew perfectly well what impression this would leave, they knew perfectly well that the media interpretation of Obama's statement would be set in stone before anyone saw the entire interview, and if you go to about the 4:30 mark (and then to the 9:50 mark to hear the rest of Obama's answer to the "kick some butt" question), you'll see that the clip they released represents the exact opposite of how Obama twice told Lauer he actually feels. But they went ahead and did it anyway. Because, I guess, they really don't care about reporting the news accurately. They just care about attracting attention.
But at least now I have a pretty good idea of whose ass I want to kick. The BP execs are going to have to get in line.
Then I went searching for some sanity as it relates to the oil spill. From what I have been able to gather so far suggestions for what Obama should do have ranged from nationalizing BP to sending Colin Powell to the Gulf Coast. Clive Crook of the Atlantic had it about right today when he wrote in a blog post titled "Obama's Overheated Critics":
The criticism of Mr Obama's handling of the oil spill has been especially and flamboyantly unreasonable. So far as capping the leak is concerned, the relevant expertise resides with BP and the other oil companies. The notion that they should be "pushed aside" is risible. In any case, of course, the administration is in charge - overseeing the operation, as opposed to directing it in detail, which is as it should be. A deepwater drilling moratorium is in place and a thoroughgoing review of the regulatory regime is under way. The White House has been active in mobilizing resources to contain damage to the coastline.
Could more be done? Louisiana's governor Bobby Jindal deplores the delay in building sand barriers to act as an extra line of defense - but there are differences of opinion about the utility of that approach, which even advocates admit will take months to execute. Good-faith disputes over priorities and what is feasible cannot support accusations of negligence or indolence.
So far as Wall Street Reform, it is indeed "complicated" and "complex." By the way, did I miss the part of civics where the President waves a magic wand and gets Congress to produce massive pieces of legislation in no time at all? Besides, didn't I just read that the Congress is set for its conference this week to complete Wall Street reform legislation.
Also in case, Stewart needs a refresher, here is a wonderful info graphic that highlights how a bill becomes actual law.
Next Stewart went off about healthcare and wanted the President to "simplify it." That's right, if it were that easy to do why did it take 100 years to accomplish the task that this President and this Democratic Congress achieved this year. Give me a break! This underscored the rantiness and petulance of Stewart's diatribe.
For good measure he would like the President to unilaterally close down Guantanamo. I am sorry but if even the critics of the prison cannot come up with a realistic answer for what to do with the remaining prisons there, then it is clear that this is complicated. Yes that's right, complicated. Perhaps John Stewart, if he feels so strongly about the issue, could devote some time convincing the Congress to actually APPROPRIATE the funds necessary to transfer prisoners to Illinois and out of Cuba. But no, that would be too complicated????
I am certain that I will get the requisite BASHING about my diary today. So be it. I will be accused of being unwilling to criticize the President, etc... etc... So be it. I won't defend myself. It's all good. But I did think that Stewart's diatribe merited a response.