Media pitfalls during President Obama's first 100 days
As I told a reporter for a public radio outlet yesterday, the flood of evaluations dissecting President Obama's first 100 days in office feels like a media-fed event; a benchmark without much significance, except that it looks and sounds good in a headline.
Back when the idea first emerged during FDR's time, the idea may have been that 100 days marks the end of the presidential honeymoon -- the point at which political reality and the chaos of world events conspire to reduce citizens' enthusiasm for their new chief executive.
But even a look a recent presidents such as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush reveals that the public still generally likes its presidents at the 100-day mark -- Clinton had a 55 percent job approval rating, Bush had a 62 percent approval. Obama currently enjoys similar ratings -- 63 percent job approval in general -- and faces challenges so complex, most voters seem willing to acknowledge that it will take time to see the impact of his efforts.
But there is one institution which might benefit from a 100-day look: The media itself.
Here's my list of media disappointments in President Obama's first 100 days in office:
New York Post -- The cartoon depicting a dead chimp as the author of the Obama-championed economic stimulus bill was the tip of a huge trend at the newspaper, which delights in cheap shots and controversial covers. How could any competent editor at a New York newspaper publish a cartoon that touched on police killing, chimps presented as humans, an Obama-supported piece of legislation and a horrific mauling of a woman by a chimp in one awful image and not expect an outcry?
Steve Kroft's 60 Minutes Interview with Obama -- As illuminating as some of Kroft's interviews with the president and his staff have been, his most recent interview in March -- in which the most notable exchange involved Kroft asking if Obama was punch drunk for chuckling ruefully about the auto bailout -- was disappointing. As journalists everywhere were trying to figure out what the president and his administration may have known about the massively unpopular bonuses for AIG executives, Kroft didn't ask those questions of the president, failing to probe whether the administration's economic officials are too close to the industries they're bailing out.
Dick Cheney/Karl Rove/New Gingrich -- Tapped by a host of news outlets as expert commentators, these three in particular have made lots of noise criticizing Obama for actions similar to moves they made while in power. Cheney criticized Obama for increasing the country's deficit without noting that his own administration created huge hikes in the federal deficit, while Rove criticized the administration for its contact with Democratic-friendly activist groups after leaving an administration which politicized everything from the U.S. Attorney's office to charity support.
Fox News Channel -- Intent on rallying disaffected Republicans, Fox News incessantly promoted the Tea Party tax protests across the country, covering them like a sporting event. From weeks of this coverage to host Glenn Beck pretending to be Obama dousing an "average American" with gasoline, this outlet has indulged increasingly bizarre antics while chasing ratings among viewers who may disagree politically with the Obama administration. And, as much as the Fox broadcast network says its decision not to carry Obama's press conference Wednesday marking his 100 days in office is financial -- they don't want to risk pre-empting American Idol's results show -- the activities of its cable newschannel only helps kick up more doubt about that scenario. So much for "fair and balanced."