.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sunday, May 03, 2015


Media Gives President a Pass Again … for Losing Afghanistan

Walter Russell Mead

Once again, be very glad we don’t have a Republican president right now. If we did, we would be treated to a merciless media pounding, night-and-day, on the series of strategic failures, mistakes and false starts that have characterized America’s war strategy in Afghanistan since 2009. ...

President Obama has been permitted to fail in Afghanistan quietly and off center stage. We hear nothing anymore about the months of agonized reflection before choosing strategies that didn’t accomplish their goals. We never see mentions of his 2008 campaign rhetoric about Afghanistan—”the necessary war”—against which we might be asked to measure what has actually been achieved....

But the heavy media bias against Republicans and for mildly to solidly left-of-center Democrats isn’t just a question of conscious and malicious bias. When the press puts Republicans through the wringer while giving Democrats the best deal it can, it’s often a reflection of the groupthink that comes naturally and almost inevitably to those who’ve spent their lives as bubble babies in the ultra-liberal world of the contemporary American campus where intellectual homogeneity is considered a virtue....

The news articles and opinion pieces they write aren’t biased in the sense that they are consciously telling untruths or twisting facts. They are reporting the world as they see it. And in that world, Obama is a master strategist, a visionary diplomat, and an innovative thinker out to change the way the world works.

The war in Afghanistan makes Obama look like a mix of a panderer—telling Americans what he thought they wanted to hear in 2008—and a bungler—struggling unsuccessfully with the ugly realities of the war ever since as plan after plan falls short of its goals. The fact that the President’s plans for an end to a combat role for the U.S. seem to have fizzled is noted in the Times piece without any reference to the unbroken string of failed U.S. strategies in Afghanistan since 2009, or to the battles between the White House and the Pentagon over strategy that filled the media back when President Obama was developing his master plan for Afghanistan....

The New York Times would almost certainly not cover this story the same way if a GOP president had won an election promising to win the war in Afghanistan, had imposed his personal vision and strategy on the Pentagon’s war plans, and after six years had made announcements that the Times believed to be inaccurate about the end of a combat role for U.S. troops. It would be termed a scandal, a national tragedy, and the brightest spotlights the media owned would be riveted on the sad spectacle of a hapless, flailing, incapacitated White House. We would hear a lot more than we do about career officers who disagree with the administration’s strategies being ruthlessly sidelined, and a hostile press would be scrutinizing the Joint Chiefs for signs of toadyism and opportunism.

Glenn Reynolds notes that:  He’s an affirmative-action President. Nobody expects him to produce much.

But the comment by "wigwag" that follows is as good, fi not better than Mead's essay.

Everything that Professor Mead says in his piece is true, though as he surely knows, highlighting the media's leftist tendencies is not exactly a stunning revelation. Had Professor Mead been interested in being brave as opposed to merely right, he would have named names and called out the specific reporters, editors and columnists who he believes are most guilty of giving Obama and his foreign policy a pass.

As long time readers of Via Meadia may remember, during the last presidential campaign, Professor Mead wrote a couple of essays excoriating Yale literature professor, Harold Bloom, for writing a New York Times column that Mead believed was insensitive to members of the LDS Church. Given Mead's willingness to criticize Professor Bloom personally, why is he is so reluctant to tell us exactly which journalists he believes behave in the most egregious manner in making excuses for Obama? It's hard to know, but my guess is that Professor Mead is reluctant to criticize specific journalists who are his peers, acquaintances and in some cases, perhaps his friends.

For example, Professor Mead could have criticized the Washington editor of the Atlantic Monthly, Jim Fallows. In 1997, Fallows wrote a book lambasting media bias entitled, "Breaking the News, How Media Bias Undermines American Democracy." The title of Fallows' book is ironic because Fallows himself is a very biased fellow. He writes regularly about Afghanistan and the Middle East and he is one of the biggest apologists for Obama. Why couldn't Mead mention Fallows by name? Could it be because they are well acquainted? After all, they are both co-founders of the New America Foundation, a think tank that offers apology after apology for the Obama Administration's foreign policy.

Mead could have mentioned Zbigniew Brzezinski, the diplomat turned pundit who is a frequent defender of Barack Obama. Has the irony occurred to Professor Mead that he wrote an entire article about role of the press in Afghanistan while virtually ignoring the Taliban? As Mead knows (or should know) Brzezinski practically invented the Taliban back in the 1970s when he trained and armed the Afghan mujahideen to the hilt in order to give the Soviets a black eye. Of course it would be too much to expect Mead to offer even tepid criticism of Brzezinski; he is, after all, an editorial board member of the "American Interest."

Other than the ridiculous Jeffrey Goldberg, the biggest defender of Barack Obama's foreign policy is Tom Friedman. Given his notoriety as an Obama sycophant, one might think that Mead could mention Friedman by name. Don't count on it; Friedman is a big fan of Walter Russell Mead and Adam Garfinkle and has referenced both of them in his famous New York Times column. It wouldn't do to criticize a man giving your work free advertising in the biggest forum imaginable, would it Professor Mead?

Maybe Professor Mead has other journalists in mind; maybe he thinks highly of the ones I mentioned. That's fine. But it hardly represents a profile in courage to criticize journalists as a class and refuse to criticize the worst offenders as individuals. Instead of entitling his essay, "Media Gives President a Pass Again," I think a more apt title would have been "Via Meadia Gives the Rest of the Media a Pass Again."

The interesting question is why contemporary journalists are such a homogeneous group. Why do they genuflect to Democrats while exhibiting an almost visceral distaste for Republicans? Why are they so uniformly left-wing in their orientation? What is it about American power and society that leaves them so queasy?

I suspect that the reason so many journalists love Obama and are willing to forgive all of his myraid mistakes is that these journalists genuinely hate themselves, their culture and their nation's history; any politician who reflects that self-hatred is viewed as an ally. Politicians who happen to be devoid of the self-hatred that the chattering classes wallow in are viewed as an uncouth yahoos. Many, if not most of our famous and accomplished American journalists are baby boomers or just slightly younger (Obama's generation). They attended university and cut their professional teeth at just the time that the United States was coming to grips with the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement and the push for gender equality. Shelby Steele gets it right in his fabulous book, "Shame: How America's Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country.


If you haven't read Steele's book you're doing yourself a disservice. While Steele focuses on race relations, his thesis is equally pertinent to the leftist take on American foreign policy.

Steele suggests that the boomers and their progeny were indoctrinated during the later half of the last century to deal with their "shame" about supposed American imperialism, racism and sexism by a new cultural ideal,

"That America's moral authority and legitimacy were linked to the actual rejection of traditional America as a fundamentally hypocritical society."

This generation assuaged its shame-induced self hatred through relentless criticism of America, it's values and its policies. Virtually all of America's leading journalists are of this generation. It's no wonder that they were so titillated by the fact that America's first black President began his days in the White House by embarking on an apology tour.

It is interesting to note that the same factors that bias journalists in favor of Obama's Afghanistan policy also bias the foreign policy glitterati against Israel. These reporters erroneously conclude that Israel is, by rights, part of their club; that is to say that Israel is of the West and therefore shares all of the guilt that western elites believe their nations are so deeply mired in. As a result, they insist that Israelis should be full of the same self-hatred and shame that card carrying members of the commentariat are haunted by. Never mind that these reporters are wrong; as many Israelis are descended from Jews from Arab nations, Africa or the Soviet Union and its former satellites as are of Western descent. Yet to American journalistic leaders, the lack of shame, guilt and self doubt by Israelis is inexcusable.

For a fascinating bill of particulars about why Western journalists are biased against Israel, see Matti Friedman's essay in the August 26, 2014 edition of "Tablet Magazine,"


Why do journalists love Democrats and hate Republicans? It's because in general (there are exceptions) Democrats are more likely to be filled with embarrassment about America's domestic and foreign policies than Republicans are. Reporters admire Obama because while he may not hate America, like them, he is deeply ambivalent about American power and whether that power is a force for good in the world.

Obama rejects the notion of American exceptionalism and so do most of our leading journalists. That rejecting the idea of American exceptionalism is, in many ways, to reject America itself, isn't a bug for either Obama or most members of the American press; it's a feature.

These journalists don't hate the idea of national exceptionaism in general; as far as they're concerned it's fine for the Chinese, Russians, Indians, Turks and Iranians. But in their eyes, it's definitely not okay for America (or for Israel). The reason is simple; too many journalists believe that America has an exceptionally vulgar and ugly history. Penance must be paid. The currency for that penance is self-loathing. Buy into that self-loathing and you're a compatriot.

Reject it and you're deluded. Even worse than that; you're the enemy.

Most members of the GOP and some Democrats are proud to believe that the United States is "the" indespensible" nation. They believe that despite its mistakes, our country has been a force for good in the world. Obama, and many American journalists are deeply suspicious of American power. To them, the United States is too imperialistic, racist, sexist and homophobic to play a positive role in the world.

Obama and the press see perfectly eye to eye on this. That's why the press defends him. It's why they will make excuse, after excuse after excuse for him long after he leaves office.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Comments: Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?