Although I’ve been blogging and reading the paper a bit the past few days, I’ve gotten my vacation on in a way that I haven’t in quite a while. Checking back in with the American media with at least a slight sense of distance, it is striking how much harder they are on Obama they were on Bush.
I don’t say that as a complaint, simply a statement of fact.
David Broder has already declared that Obama’s honeymoon is over. I don’t say that as a complaint either, but since the “honeymoon period” is largely a construct of the punditocracy which Broder heads up, this does mean that Obama’s honeymoon is over. Indeed — other Villagers like Dowd and Ignatius are already savaging Obama.
Now, by any reasonable measure, the Bush honeymoon lasted until mid-2003. One might argue that part of this was the 9/11 effect. In a time of national crisis, the media might be expected to rally around the president.
On the other hand, this recession is a national crisis too, and it has only served to amplify criticism of Obama. Whereas we were told with Bush, that because of the War on Terror, we were either with the president or with the terrorists, we are now told with Obama, that because of the recession, that we have to hold Obama to a higher standard than other presidents.
If one believes, as I do, that good decisions come from close scrutiny, then one must also believe that presidents should be scrutinized more closely during times of crisis. But it’s difficult for me to understand why this applies to Obama and not to Bush.
I realize that everything I say here may seem obvious to people. But I rarely see it stated as a matter of fact, which in my opinion it is.
What is the cause of this? Some of it is that liberals like to criticize (I know I do), while conservatives like to fall in line. Some of it is that “nonpartisan” commentators gain in stature when they attack Democrats and fall when they criticize Republicans. Maybe these facts constitute the entire explanation.
But it’s hard for me to see how this doesn’t end in ruin. Media scrutiny does, I believe, make for smarter, more careful decision-making. But it also makes for tougher political sledding. So the very thing that makes our government work also makes political leaders unpopular. And, for whatever, reason it now distributes itself differently for one party than the other.
Is this one of those systemic flaws that can’t be corrected?