March 4 2013

World Turned Upside Down: SNL Mocks President Obama

Charlotte Hays

If you missed Saturday Night Live, here is the opening skit in which “President Obama” declares, "I really have no idea how money works or how budgets work."

Truer words were never spoken.

There was a crack on the Obama façade last week, thanks largely to the president’s own tawdry behavior with regard to the sequester and one journalist, Bob Woodward.

Woodward wrote a column for the Washington Post tracing the origin to the sequester, which the president was trying to hang around the necks of the Republicans, to the Obama White House. The information came from The Price of Politics, a Woodward book on three and a half years of fiscal negotiations between the White House and Republicans.

The impact of the Woodward column was instantaneous and included pushback from the White House of a personal nature, but it clearly showed one thing: the importance of having reporters who ask the important questions and are willing to print the answers. It would have been interesting to have reporters who asked hard questions during the 2012 presidential campaign. What if the press had not been so incurious about Benghazi? What if the press earlier had asked more probing questions about how ObamaCare would work?  

But the Woodward episode, in addition to showing something that should give hope (that journalists can have a huge impact when they ask hard questions) showed something bad: the the turning on Woodward, half of the Washington Post duo that toppled Richard Nixon in Watergate, by important members of the press, showed that the press no longer regards its role as asking questions. These "journalists" were angry that Woodward wasn't towing the line. These journalists are partisans, part of the great progressive project, and quite different from the men and women of the old fifth estate.

Some of the debate, on the pro-Woodward side, has revolved around the notion that the White House bullies reporters. That’s ridiculous. If a reporter has come up through the ranks, she should have started learning how to stand up to bullying while covering the city council. The problem isn’t that the press gets bullied—it is that it doesn’t need to be bullied to do the bidding for this White House. That is the scandal that Woodwardgate brings to light.  

What we see in the mindset of the current mainstream media starts early. Most men and women of the press simply don’t have the educational backgrounds to question progressive ideas. They no longer think of themselves as outsiders, if a progressive is in power. Woodward himself helped create the new media, the Ivy League graduates, who come to Washington to become famous. But he was always a reporter. That’s the difference.

This is not the press Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he said, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost."

So the breaking of the Obama façade was heartening. So is the development of an alternative media. But I still am not counting on much from the mainstream media, which still has vast power in setting the agenda.

 

 

 

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