If you have been reading the editorial and newspages lately, you may have noticed something new in their political coverage. That's a new strain of newstories and commentaries that are critical of Barack Obama.
For instance, last week the Boston Globe and the Washington Post each ran exposes of Barack Obama's corruption within real estate. Their two reports were of two totally separate incidents and yet both brutal in their indictment.
Then, the New York Times had this editorial.
Senator Barack Obama stirred his legions of supporters, and raised our hopes, promising to change the old order of things. He spoke with passion about breaking out of the partisan mold of bickering and catering to special pleaders, promised to end President Bush’s abuses of power and subverting of the Constitution and disowned the big-money power brokers who have corrupted Washington politics.
Now there seems to be a new Barack Obama on the hustings. First, he broke his promise to try to keep both major parties within public-financing limits for the general election. His team explained that, saying he had a grass-roots-based model and that while he was forgoing public money, he also was eschewing gold-plated fund-raisers. These days he’s on a high-roller hunt.
Now, I believe that the new critical tone is happening for two reasons. The first is that the media has a tendency to build people up only to bring them down eventually. At some point, the media was going to do some of this to Obama.
The second reason is that when Obama reversed course on public financing it was an issue that makes little difference to the public at large. Yet, it makes a huge difference to the media. As such, Barack Obama was castigated by much of the media following this reversal.
Barack Obama's decision not to accept public financing for his general-election
campaignmakes the Democratic Party's presumptive presidential nominee look hypocritical.
His supporters, as well as supporters of publicly funded campaigns, have to be disappointed. He is the first presidential nominee to reject public financing for the general election since the system began.
He's not the only hypocrite in the race, of course. His rival, presumptive GOP nominee John McCain, now supports the Bush tax cut he publicly opposed in 2001, for example. For months, however, Mr. Obama has been saying he would sit down with Mr. McCain — the foremost Republican campaign-finance reformer — and agree to stay within the presidential public financing system that's been in place since 1976, a system designed to keep the special interests at bay.
That agreement somehow never came about.It's no secret why Mr. Obama succumbed to the temptation to forgo public money. If he accepted public money, he'd collect some $85 million out of the federal treasury for the fall campaign, same as his Republican opponent. That's petty cash compared with the amount Mr. Obama figures he can raise on his own. He's right that the public-financing law needs amending to catch up with this new age of fundraising.
Unlike many other issues, the media is very pure on campaign finance, and when Obama reversed himself it was a betrayal to many in the media.
The third reason is that Barack Obama's lurch to the middle is also in stark contrast to many positions that most in the media believe in. (thus, one of the reasons, I believe, for the New York Times piece I linked to earlier) Whether it is his reversal on FISA, Free Trade, the second amendment, and certainly his "evolving" position on Iraq he is now on the opposite side of the ideological table from most in the media. The move make sense politically. After all, the media election ended when he won the nomination, and now he is running the general election. Ingratiating himself with the media is no longer the best political move.
Every political move is a calculated risk. By moving to the center, Obama didn't merely open himself up to the label of flip flopper, he also risked alienating the media.
The risks for Obama with this alienation are several. First, as any opponent of Obama knows, his whole campaign is really nothing more than a house of cards. It is a house of cards built upon the Democrats' strong advantage and Obama's remarkable charisma. Still, he is first term Senator. His list of accomplishments are next to nothing. Finally, he has compiled a voting record that gave him the title of most liberal Senator in 2007 by the National Journal.
If the media ever wanted to expose and emphasize all these weaknesses, Obama's campaign would be in huge trouble.
Now, make no mistake, Barack Obama is still a media darling and the coverage of him is still overwhelmingly favorable. While the negative media coverage has reared its head more in the last few weeks, it is in no way comes close to the positive converage.
It is still unclear how much more, if any, negative coverage we will see from the media. The netroots have nearly turned on Obama for instance, but they will soon realize their utter inconsequentiality of their entire community. If, however, the MSM looks at Obama's record, history, and associations even one tenth as critically as the conservative media much of Obama's theme and persona would be exposed. I myself do believe that this is the beginning of a slow but steadily increasing turn by the MSM on Barack Obama. While their coverage of him will always be far brighter than his opponent, I firmly believe it will steadily continue to be more and more critical. If that is the case, it may spell a new and unanticipated problem for his campaign. We will have to wait and see how he responds to it.