Monday, June 1, 2009

Close But No Cigar

Robert Samuelson, on the media's ongoing Obama love affair in today's WaPo:

The infatuation matters because Obama's ambitions are so grand. He wants to expand health-care subsidies, tightly control energy use and overhaul immigration. He envisions the greatest growth of government since Lyndon Johnson. The Congressional Budget Office estimates federal spending in 2019 at nearly 25 percent of the economy (gross domestic product). That's well up from the 21 percent in 2008, and far above the post-World War II average; it would also occur before many baby boomers retire.

Are his proposals practical, even if desirable? Maybe they're neither? What might be the unintended consequences? All "reforms" do not succeed; some cause more problems than they solve. Johnson's economic policies, inherited from Kennedy, proved disastrous; they led to the 1970s' "stagflation." The "war on poverty" failed. The press should not be hostile, but it ought to be skeptical.

Mostly, it isn't. The idea of a "critical" Obama story is one about a tactical conflict with congressional Democrats or criticism from an important constituency. Larger issues are minimized, despite ample grounds for skepticism.

Obama's rhetoric brims with inconsistencies. In the campaign, he claimed he would de-emphasize partisanship -- and also enact a highly partisan agenda; both couldn't be true. He got a pass. Now, he claims he will control health-care spending even though he proposes more government spending. He promotes "fiscal responsibility" when projections show huge and continuous budget deficits. Journalists seem to take his pronouncements at face value even when many are two-faced.

Samuelson was doing fine up to this point, when he stumbled over the hoary old "impartial journalist" canard:

The cause of this acquiescence isn't clear.

To be fair, Samuelson managed to cough up the "cause" a few lines later:

they agree with his agenda (so it never occurs to them to question basic premises)

... but still buried it amidst a mishmash of feel-good excuses.

A solid B+ for the column, but next time, try to be as honest about the ideological bent of your "journalist" collegues as you are about the politicians they cover.

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