Journalists as Ring Wraiths

By Victor Davis Hanson - March 6, 2013

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I do not recall any member of the White House press corps reminding the president that to lump millionaires and billionaires together is to suggest that being worth a million dollars is as culpable as being worth 1,000 times that sum. More commonly, the press corps asks the president why he can’t just force his opponents to come over to his side. This plea from his media ministers usually elicits from a wistful Obama something like, “I’m not a dictator,” or emperor, or king — or fill in the blank. When Press Secretary Robert Gibbs simply pulled the 2,500 targeted assassinations by Predator drones off the table, D.C. journalists nodded, and they stayed off the table. When a U.S. ambassador is murdered, it used to be news; now the news is the scoundrel who dares to think it is news.

That presidential model explains why the attorney general adopts the bipolarity between “cowards” and “my people,” or why the vice president warns blacks that Republicans wish to put them “back in chains.” Joe Biden’s faux black accent was no better and no worse than Barack Obama’s own manufactured cadences when the occasion demands. Following the Obama example explains why the EPA chief adopted phony e-mail personas to distort discussion of issues. Or why Department of Justice communication flacks coordinated with Media Matters to attack critics of Eric Holder’s policies.

What was the purpose of the 2008 faux-Greek columns, the Latin motto, the promises to cool the earth and calm the rising seas, if not to create a divine persona, soon be reflected on cue in everything from JournoList to Chris Matthews’s tingling leg to Evan Thomas’s “I mean in a way Obama’s standing above the country, above the world, he’s sort of God.” How many times can a Washington toady invoke the Gettysburg Address to supersize another mediocre Obama speech?

In the same way that the operatives of the Nixon White House once channeled the character of Richard Nixon, so too the Obama administration reflects the manner in which Barack Obama has always campaigned and viewed politics. His 2004 Senate run and two presidential campaigns all shared the same modus operandi of unleashing surrogates to tar opponents, bully critics, romance the mainstream media, and caricature the shrinking number of journalistic kulaks — all while deploring the politics of personal destruction.

The Woodward fiasco is different only in that a few liberals now feel that, given that Obama need not face election again, they should be allowed to salvage some journalistic integrity by mild cross-examination and pathetic eleventh-hour confessions of past White House pressure. Or, in the words of journalist Mark Halperin, writing of the Woodward affair, “It’s a little embarrassing none of the rest of us was as aggressive as he was.” Four years ago it was a little embarrassing; now it is only predictable.

Cannot Obama be somewhat magnanimous and give our modern-day Nazgûl a few face-saving measures after they have sold their souls on so many occasions when it counted? Of course not; emaciated wraiths remain wraiths. Dissent is equated with a sort of disloyalty among the supposedly kindred minds of fellow culture warriors. By questioning motives, they have earned justifiable rebuke — or worse.

You see, in the worldview of Barack Obama, he has only so much time to protect the helpless and, for the first time in our history, transform us into a fair and just America — a monumental task that can brook no reactionary dissent, especially among those who certainly should know better and had so long ago pledged their fealty. 

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Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His latest book is The Savior Generals from BloomsburyBooks. You can reach him by e-mailing

This piece originally appeared in the National Review (Online) on March 4, 2013. It is reprinted with the permission of the Hoover Institution

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