Has the Obama/media complex achieved unaccountability?

Photo by Chuck Kennedy/The White House via Getty Images

Photo by Chuck Kennedy/The White House via Getty Images

Through two presidential campaigns and Obama’s first term, mainstream editors, editorial writers, and journalists served as de facto auxiliaries for the White House press office.  Certain that they were serving a noble cause, they soft-pedaled bad news about the economy and ignored or played down the president’s gaffes.  Aided by one-liners from late-night talk-show hosts, they attacked and ridiculed Fox News or any reporter, radio commentator, writer, or blogger not riding Obama’s bandwagon.  They hounded and harassed Sarah Palin—author Joe McGinnis even moved next door to her home—determined to destroy someone they perceived as a threat to Obama’s power.  They rode shotgun as Obamacare made its way through Congress.  And they led the chorus of derision that greeted early reports of political corruption inside the IRS.

And with each alibi they provided, with each news story they slanted to assist Obama at the polls, they deprived the president of the honest feedback that public officials may not want but desperately need. A biased press corps steadily pushed the president closer to the precipice where he now precariously stands.  In the morning, members of the media were somehow astonished when judgment day arrived, and they were shown a lack of respect in the form of Obama’s Department of Justice targeting the AP with secret subpoenas.

An independent press is a compass, a vital part of the American system of checks and balances. It can provide the ship of state with mid-course corrections.  But a compass that swings any way the helmsman wants is worse than useless. It points the way to disaster.{1}

It’s human nature to hold authority figures in contempt, but when those authority figures forego the adversarial responsibility of their authority and attempt to become allies, most people don’t lose that contempt they lose respect.  When the media engaged in the “slobbering love affair” with Obama, the media probably thought, as most that are required to hold other accountable think, that the like-minded kinship and respect would be returned.  Instead, the administration began acting in a manner that suggested that they were no longer accountable, because they were the administration, and they tried to further the momentum of this slobbering love affair to encourage the slobberers to join in on the condemnation of the one prominent outlet that remained stubbornly adversarial: Fox News.

Even most of those in the stubbornly adversarial Fox News are now saying that it’s likely that President Barack Obama knew nothing of the IRS intimidation of conservative groups, or any of the other scandals, but those in the stubbornly adversarial Wall Street Journal say if this is the case then we have to say that this administration is, at the very least, a “driverless train” on the precipice of disaster.

If it is a driverless train, and the appointees in the Justice Department, the IRS, and The State Department avoided telling the president anything, they did it under the guise of plausible deniability to protect the president from repercussions in the event that any illegal or unpopular activities were revealed.  If they were directed to act in this manner, they were directed to be unaccountable to the president, so that the president could say that he should be unaccountable to the media for their actions, so that the media could be unaccountable to the people when they reported it.  The end result is an impression taxpayers have of a federal bureaucracy run amok and the dangers of an unwieldy and unaccountable administrative state.{2}

There were times when this “unwieldy and unaccountable” administration could have been held to account however.  There were times when plausible deniability could not apply.  There were times when the media had facts on its side, and they merely wanted the administration’s comments on readily available facts.  When those times occurred, the media was still disrespected: “I just learned of this story when you did,” or “I haven’t read that story, so I can’t comment on it,” President Obama, President Clinton, and those in their administrations were known to say whenever those times arose.  Then, if that controversy sprouted some legs, they said, “I can’t comment on an ongoing investigation.  When the findings come out, I’ll let you know.  I want to get to the bottom of this as much as you do.”  If the controversy happened to evolve into an out and out scandal, they’d say, “Eh, it’s (Benghazi) an old story,”  “It’s a Republican witch hunt,” “A right-wing conspiracy,” or the ever popular: “The president just wants to get back to the job the people elected him to do.  Let’s all move on.”  Most of those in the media would tell you that they knew they were being disrespected to some degree, but that they weren’t Constitutionally permitted to water board McClellan, Clinton, Carney, or Obama, to get answers out of them. There were times though, when the media could’ve held their feet to the fire, and corrected the course, and acted so adversarial that the administration would’ve been forced to fashion some sort of answer, a release emails, documents, or other forms of information, because the story in question wouldn’t die, because the media wouldn’t let it go.  Unfortunately, the media would let it go after they received preliminary answers, and they were all eventually shocked when such a lack of accountability led to scandalous actions by both administrations.

Those that will forever believe that the George W. Bush administration was the most unethical administration of the three, would have to admit that that the Bush administration was eventually held to account for their actions by a more dogged, and more adversarial media.  The Bush administration may have been afforded some respite from the dogged press in the aftermath of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and in the beginning of the Iraq War, but after those respites the Bush administration was so pressed for accountability that fear of the press’s scrutiny drove them to be more ethical than they may have otherwise been.  What happens to a president, an administration, or any person that loses the fear that drives them to be ethical, because they don’t have an adversarial authority figure that holds them accountable for their actions?  What happens when that administration, or person, has never had to make mid-course corrections in the course of their existence, because they’ve always been able to “manage” their authority figures so well that they’re eventually not only compliant but complicit?

The AP and Fox News’ James Rosen scandals may turn out to be the most important of all four of these scandals as a result of this.  They are not the most important because they are the most alarming, as most citizens consider them the least alarming of the four, but if the media begins protect their own (AP not Fox) they may actually begin their adversarial, and Constitutional, duties as the fourth pillar of the democracy.




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