Nov 26 2008

Media Cheer for ‘Non-Ideological’ Centrists

Corporate media are largely cheering Barack Obama’s early appointment of Clinton-era centrists. Many of these nominees have a distinct record of support for the corporate-friendly NAFTA trade pact, gutting public assistance programs under the guise of welfare “reform,” and pushing various deregulatory policies in the financial sector (including the elimination of the Glass-Steagall Act). Yet, to hear the media tell it, Obama’s centrist nominees inhabit an ideology-free political zone.

The praise began with Obama’s pick of center-right Clinton Democrat Rahm Emanuel for chief of staff. Time magazine’s Karen Tumulty explained (11/13/08):

Emanuel is a win-at-any-cost partisan but not an ideologue; in his earlier White House stint as a top aide to Clinton, he was a key figure in shepherding through the North American Free Trade Agreement, a crime bill and welfare reform–none of them popular with the Democratic Party’s liberal base.

As more centrist nominations began to pile up, New York Times reporter David Sanger wrote (11/22/08), “Obama is planning to govern from the center-right of his party, surrounding himself with pragmatists rather than ideologues.”

Obama’s subsequent choice of Timothy Geithner for Treasury Secretary and Geithner’s mentor, former Clinton Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, to head the White House National Economic Council, likewise prompted media praise for the men’s supposed lack of ideology. A USA Today piece by Richard Wolf (11/25/08) noted that “experts”–in a typical broad media spectrum ranging “from the White House to Wall Street”–raved about Obama’s choice of the two centrists, lauding them as “pragmatists” who represent “practicality over ideology.”

The Wall Street Journal concurred (11/24/08): “The records of Messrs. Geithner and Summers suggest views more pragmatic than ideological, on a range of issues that they will likely confront after Mr. Obama takes office in January.”

The Journal highlighted a number of quotes from Summers and Geithner in an apparent attempt to show how wise the two have been about the current turmoil; the great majority were from the last year, when trouble had already arrived.

Even conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks hailed Obama’s ‘superb’ choices (11/21/08), explaining, “They are not ideological.”

The “pragmatic rather than ideological” centrists theme emanates from the Obama camp as well as the media. As U.S. News & World Report wrote (12/1/08), Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs “says…guiding standard is pragmatic rather than ideological as he seeks advisers who will put the middle class first and have a ‘philosophy of getting things done.'”

What makes these Clinton era centrists’ positions “pragmatic” rather than “ideological”? Notably, those positions were all heartily supported by a corporate media that system that clings fiercely to the notion that it, too, is non-ideological (see Extra! 10-11/89).