The Magazine

Friendly Fire

Sep 30, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 04 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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The media have been pretty down on Obama recently. Or rather, the media have been about as critical as they’re ever going to be. Case in point, The Scrapbook was a bit taken aback when we saw last week’s Time cover. Vladimir Putin’s visage is glowering against a stark background, and the cover line is brutal: “America’s weak and waffling. Russia’s rich and resurgent—and its leader doesn’t care what anybody thinks of him.”

Time

What? You didn’t see that Time magazine cover when you were in line at the grocery store? Well, that’s because it ran on the magazine’s Asia, South Pacific, and European editions. The U.S. edition ran with Texas A&M’s quarterback sensation Johnny Manziel, under the headline “It’s Time to Pay College Athletes.”

We’ll concede that a college football cover on the U.S. edition might sell better than the Putin cover. Still, it’s fair to suspect that Time may be covering for our incompetent commander in chief. Last week, it was announced that Richard Stengel, the managing editor of Time for the last seven years, is departing the magazine to work for Secretary of State John Kerry. And in case you had forgotten, the current White House spokesman Jay Carney came to the administration from, yes, Time. Since 2009, at least 15 journalists have joined the Obama administration. In addition to Time, they have experience working for the Washington Post, the Associated Press, the Boston Globe, CBS News, ABC News, National Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal. Upon Stengel’s announcement, the Daily Beast quipped, “These days, journalists don’t retire, they just join the Obama administration.” 

With such seamless integration between the White House and the Fourth Estate, you can bet that
the media think criticism of the Obama administration amounts to friendly fire. Indeed, after a week or so of pathetic rearguard attempts to deny the undeniable fact that Putin has rendered our president “weak and waffling,” they are now in full retreat. This past Wednesday, Politico editor John F. Harris co-bylined a piece for his publication headlined “And what’s right with President Obama?” In case you had forgotten, Harris wants you to know, “His smile remains dazzling, even if he flashes it less often.” (Indeed, the smiling photo of Obama accompanying the article was almost the inverse of Time’s everywhere-but-in-America Putin cover.) And, Harris assures us, Obama’s “longstanding ability to coolly assess his circumstances and then adapt to them means that he is still better positioned than most of his peers to work his way out of problems.” This would be a fawning generalization under any circumstances, but in the wake of Obama’s Syria dithering, such an observation is completely at odds with his handling of perhaps the most sensitive and high-pressure episode of his presidency.

The president’s repeated failures to “coolly assess his circumstances” should be plenty obvious, but apparently it’s too much to ask our press to acknowledge reality instead of rewriting it.

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