Is the national news media setting up Barak Obama to be a failure? As absurd as that question may seem, there are enough reasons to suspect that such may eventually prove be the case.
First of all, the media has taken the position that President-elect Obama’s election victory was a “peoples’ mandate for change” and second in historical importance to only Franklin Roosevelt’s 1932 landslide win. While this may indeed prove to be correct it is equally likely that’ in the eyes of future historians, President Obama will be remembered as having gained the presidency by defeating one of the most mediocre opponents in electoral history; a candidate who made Gerald Ford seem dynamic and charismatic in comparison. Should he be defeated in 2012, will President Obama then be seen as having “lost his mandate?”
Then there are the numerous references to similarities in the public’s perception of President-elect Barak Obama and that of then-President-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As of this writing at least two nationally-circulated news and opinion magazines, Time and The New Yorker, have unmistakably caricatured the President-elect as FDR, complete with top hat and cigarette holder clinched in an exaggerated, toothy smile.
To be sure, both Presidents-elect were, and are, charismatic and both inherited unsettled economic times from their predecessors in office. The similarities end there.
Say what you will about George Bush, the simple fact remains that George Bush was no Herbert Hoover. In the two last years of his presidency Hoover obstinately refused to even consider increased in government spending, in either the public or private sectors, as a means of recovery from what was then a recession. On the other hand, George W. has given his blessings to the greatest raid on a national treasury since the barbarians carted off what was left of Fifth-Century Rome. The frequent comparisons of 2009 to 1933 also fail in credibility.
On January 20, 2009 Barak Obama will inherit a nation of relative economic and social stability. Barring some disaster of, literally, epic consequences national unemployment rate will probably have stabilized at around 8% and there shouldn’t be calls from both the political left and right for an armed insurrection. At high noon on March 4, 1933 Roosevelt was immediately saddled with 25% unemployment, a banking industry that was in shambles and what seemed to be a three-way race between the communists, the socialists, and veterans of World War I as to which group would be at the forefront of the Second American Revolution. But the man from Hyde Park held one advantage, an advantage that the Man from Chicago has already forfeited: Franklin Roosevelt kept his mouth shut between election night and inauguration day.
No one knew what Franklin Roosevelt’s economic policies would be simply because he had deliberately avoided making specific promises or proposals during his campaign and again refused to do so during the four-month
interregnum preceding his inauguration. This silence 1) forced Hoover to run on his policies of the previous three years rather than against Roosevelt, 2) meant that Roosevelt retained the flexibility to adapt his responses to a political climate that was subject to change between his election and his inauguration, and 3) made it impossible for the opposition party to mount any coordinated opposition, or alternatives to, Roosevelt’s New Deal.
In contrast to Roosevelt’s restraint President-elect Obama has promised to create, or at least retain, no fewer than 2.5 million jobs at what even his own advisors admit will most likely prove to be an unrealistically low estimated cost of $250 billion dollars. This is, of course, in addition to the various promises that he made made to the automobile industry, organized labor, the environmental lobby, and even to that portion of the financial community that had not already been “stabilized” by taxpayer-financed “rescue” packages.
But perhaps the greatest handicap to be placed on the upcoming administration by the fawning national news media is that since Roosevelt’s New Deal was a success then, by illogical extension, the Obama Plan will also be a success. Unfortunately such verdicts, and predictions, overlook the unpleasant fact that two generations of economists and historians have concluded that not only was the New Deal a failure but that its policies may have actually extended the duration of the Great Depression by some five years.
No impartial observer can doubt that the national news media, by and large, was solidly in the Obama camp prior to his election. Ironically, it may well be that the history of the Obama Presidency has been written by that same media before it has begun.