Journalists Say Obama Still Too Mean to Republicans

260-6MsoP.St.55Since the consensus seems to be that Obama’s inaugural address was actually a statement of a bold, progressive vision for his second term, it’s not a surprise that some in the corporate media are upset. (See Dana Milbank and David Ignatius in the Washington Post, for instance.) The preference in the elite media is for centrism–as defined according to their own peculiar partisanship scale; deviations to the left are considered particularly bad news, and that’s what they detected yesterday.

That worldview can creep into straight news reports too, of course, where Obama’s words are seen as particularly injurious to Republicans, who presumably already feel bad enough as it is. In USA Today, Susan Page wrote (1/22/13):

“We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit,” Obama said. But “the commitments we make to each other — through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security — these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”

The contemptuous reference to “a nation of takers” was a slap at Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who was secretly videotaped during the campaign as dismissing the “47 percent” who were “dependent upon government,” and at his running mate, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who has contrasted the country’s “takers versus makers.”

It’s hard to know what makes that “contemptuous.” It was something that the Republican vice presidential candidate said. It’s hard to imagine that a reporter would be permitted to write that Paul Ryan expressed “contempt” for half of the country.

In the New York Times, Richard Stevenson writes (1/22/13) this about Obama’s supposed leftward drift:

To some Republicans, it is what they warned of all along: a president who ran as a centrist proving to be an unreconstructed liberal. It was no doubt hard for some of them to accept a scolding for treating “name calling as reasoned debate”–a phrase in his Monday address–from a man who won re-election by excoriating Mitt Romney as a job-killing plutocrat.

He’s got a point; Obama should never have called Romney…that thing he doesn’t appear to have ever called Romney (which nonetheless would have had at least some basis in reality).  This feels like yet another effort to present polarizing political rhetoric as a problem on “both sides.” Given the tenor of the Republican critique of Obama–questioning whether he was really born in this country, arguing that he’s a secret socialist or claiming that he is bringing death panels under the guise of a center-right healthcare reform plan–it’s hard to fathom how anyone could sympathize with Republicans wounded by a critique of Romney that Obama didn’t seem to make.

A stronger case could be made, according to progressive columnist David Sirota (Salon.com, 1/22/13), that the Obama administration has done a lot of name-calling–but it’s been directed at its progressive/left critics.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.