Thursday, May 23, 2013
This time, God Intervenes and Obama Fails
I've written how amazed I was last September when TV buzzed with damning news about the Obama administration handling of the terrorist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. As election day approached, it looked like the president would fall to his own spin-masters, who tried to blame a planned al Qaeda attack on a crowd upset about a YouTube video. Families of soldiers lost at Benghazi were expressing their hurt and outrage all over Fox News, and the story not only proved Obama's "We've got al Qaeda on the run!" a lie, but increasingly showed his incompetence in foreign affairs.
Then Hurricane Sandy struck, and on election day Obama was triumphant, a hero promising aid and appearing sympathetic. Fourteen percent of exit-polled voters said his reaction to the storm "was the most important factor" in their decision on presidential candidate, and three-quarters of those went for Obama.
Though the Libya story went dormant, it didn't die, and as the plot thickened with additional scandals about IRS political targeting and seizing of Associated Press phone records, God sent the Oklahoma tornado.
Heart-wrenching stories about trapped school-children shielded from falling debris by the sheltering bodies of their praying teachers have gripped the nation, and certainly left me teary. Today articles in the New York Times about the bravery and devastation in the path of the tornado were followed by a piece on Obama's reaction. He immediately pledged to give Oklahoma "everything that it needs right away," an offer of largess some congressmen, including Oklahoma's senator Tom Coburn, think should be tempered by an assessment of fiscal reality.
The Times story began with a few paragraphs on the president's televised address about the disaster, spiced with discussion of budget considerations, then hastened to say, "The disaster served to distract attention at least for a day from controversies that the White House would prefer not to talk about, particularly the handling of last year's attack on a diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service, and the seizure of phone records of journalists reporting on national security."
The press isn't speeding to change the subject this time. Last time, with Sandy, the shift from failures of the administration to admit terrorism, much less prevent it, to the impact of the storm brought Obama's victory over Mitt Romney. This time, coverage of the president's reaction to disaster is received with skepticism.
Why the difference? Three main reasons, in bold below.
One is the bias of the press--for Obama and their own ratings. In the days prior to the election, media, most editorially in support of Obama's re-election, had little desire to focus on a scandal taking place far away, in a dangerous part of the world few viewers or readers could picture. Fox News was all over the story, but when Sandy hit, even the "fair and balanced" network dropped their coverage completely, knowing people most wanted reassurance about the disaster on their doorsteps.
The population-dense location of Hurricane Sandy's devastation, as opposed to the somewhat remote woes in Moore, Oklahoma also contributes to Obama's less-than-heroic reception. The New York area, center-of-the-world when it comes to media outlets, felt the brunt of the hurricane with thousands of reporters, bloggers and Instagrammers to document it. Millions of people were affected, and 110 lost their lives. By comparison, 24 perished in the Oklahoma tornado, and far, far fewer people than with Sandy have been affected.
The tornado visuals are shocking. But now they've been presented, and today's front page carries only the obligatory below-the-fold follow-up. The one-day distraction is over.
Perhaps the most salient reason that Pres. Obama isn't redeemed by his tornado response, as he was with Sandy, is that the two new scandals are too offensive to everyone, press included. Everyone's afraid of the power of the IRS to accuse and to ruin reputations, even if the results of its intrusion and digging show nothing wrong. Look at the defensive mopping-up that Apple had to do when blamed for moving funds offshore--legally--to avoid taxes. Liberals--pardon me, Progressives must have been flummoxed by that news, since their hatred for big corporations and tax-avoidance schemes was offset by their fondness for their iPads, iPhones and Macs. Everyone loves Apple and poor deceased Steve Jobs. Even PC users keep their music in their iTunes folders. And everyone fears the phrase "IRS audit."
So it gets personal when you learn that the IRS is being used by the government to target political foes. Sometimes the other side's in power, and you could be the next foe to go. No one wants to allow the IRS to become the invasive means for politicians to punish.
And the secret seizure of Associated Press communications doesn't sit well with the public, either. Consumers want reporters to go out and cover the news, unhindered by government interference. News gatherers resent the accusation that they put the country in danger, the rationale offered by Attorney General Eric Holder for taking phone records of 20 AP reporters and editors. There's something sacred about the First Amendment, and journalists are rightfully protective of their abilities to seek out the truth.
This time, not even an Act of God can distract sufficiently to save the president from scrutiny. If only the electorate had this kind of media follow-through in September, we might not be mired in the triple-whammy scandals that are now earning even more attention than the pathos of a twister's destruction.