In 1992, the New Republic ran a piece, I believe it was by Jacob Weisberg on then-presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee, reporting something the candidate’s mother (as I recall) had said about her son. If Bill Clinton entered a room with one hundred people, ninety-nine of them loving him, but one opposed to him, he would spend his entire time trying to persuade that one to like him, to appreciate his qualities and recognize his accomplishments.
It seems that one-time Arkansan has something in common with the next Democrat to follow him to the White House. Barack Obama has a similar obsession with his critics, but expresses it much differently than did his Southern predecessor.
Few incoming Presidents have received as fawning press coverage as has the incumbent. Yesterday, for example, while doing my cardio at the gym, I was treated to a Larry King Live segment, with Wolf Blitzer substituting for the eponymous host, on Obama as Comic (or Comedian) in Chief. Had CNN ever run such a segment on any of Obama’s predecessors. Ronald Reagan was a real genius with one-liners, always ready with a stock of quips to bring a smile to most people’s lips.
When CNBC’s John Harwood asked the President whether the “favorable press” he’s been getting was “hurting the country because you’re not sufficiently being held accountable for your policies,” Obama replied
It’s very hard for me to swallow that one. First of all, I’ve got one television station that is entirely devoted to attacking my administration . . . Well, that’s a pretty big megaphone and you’d be hard-pressed if you watched the entire day to find a positive story about me on that front.
Instead of acknowledging the favorable press he has received, the president dwelt on the one news network which probably offers the most balanced coverage of his Adminsitration, featuring critics as well as supporters of his policies and proposals.
Over at Commentary‘s Contentions, Peter Wehner finds the President’s comment “revealing“:
. . . it demonstrates that Obama — who is (literally) compared to God by some journalists, who sends a thrill up the leg of others, and who causes reporters and editors to weep and choke up with emotion in simply thinking about The One — apparently believes he deserves worshipful coverage across the board; when he doesn’t receive it, he views it as a grave injustice.
The President needs to take a page not from the “manual” of his most recent Democratic predecessor but from his most successful Republican predecessor in the century just concluded–learn to take criticism in stride. The Gipper suffered worse slights on a regular basis from the news media than the incumbent suffers from FoxNews and never complained, always maintaining his sunny disposition. If Sam Donaldson berated him overmuch, he smiled and said, “Well, that’s just Sam.” That great man didn’t let criticism get to him.
We all once we receive any degreee of notice or acclaim for our endeavors are bound to receive some sort of criticism. This holds particularly true for those who choose politics as the arena in which to try their talents. The real measure of our quality is how we face that criticism. Even the best of us struggle and stumble in response.
My advice to the President would be to be grateful, most grateful, that he has had an easier time with the media than have most (if not all) of his recent predecessors. He could have better replied to Harwood’s question by saying, “Well, the media do help me get my message out,” and smiled his winning smile. It would have defused a tough question with a bit of humor. Instead of answering the question, he focused on that one news source not so favorably disposed to him.
And that is telling indeed.
UPDATE: (via Michelle Malkin‘s Buzzworthy): George Stephanopolous: “I’ve always been struck by how — and it’s not too strong a word — how obsessed the President and the White House are with Fox News.”