Barack Obama: Patron Saint of the Press
During this week's State of the Union address, the President of the United States concluded his remarks telling the story of Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg. Sgt. Remsburg, on his 10th tour in Afghanistan, nearly lost his life when a roadside bomb exploded.
Sgt. Remsburg suffered brain damage and paralysis on his left side, is now partially blind and has difficulty speaking. It was a touching ending to an otherwise shabby speech. More striking than President Obama's tribute was the press corps' reaction. NBC News Senior Political Editor Mark Murray declared on twitter that, "Obama's ending on Remsburg wasn't just a story about America -- it also was a story about Obama. Nothing has ever come easy."
Former White House speechwriter Jon Favreau chimed in and agreed. Certainly Barack Obama is incapable of saluting others without making it about himself. After Nelson Mandela died, President Obama saluted him by sending out a picture of the President in Mandela's jail cell. Honoring the men who died at Pearl Harbor, the president sent out a picture of himself at the USS Arizona. It was then natural to conclude that a narcissist like that would intend to make Cory Remsburg's story about himself.
Had Mark Murray meant that, it would have been all well and good. But that is not what Murray meant. Writing at NBC News, Murray expanded his tweet, writing, "That story could also apply to Obama himself: Nothing in his seven years on the national political stage ... has come easy. ... And now the president's current situation in which he finds himself bloodied and bruised after the botched health-care rollout."
Murray saw nothing wrong with equating dealings in Washington with a soldier nearly dying on a battlefield. Certainly the rhetoric of war and politics intermingle, but this is a pretty bold comparison between a hero and a run-of-the-mill politician. Murray, however, is typical of the up and coming Washington press corps.
Much of the younger political press in Washington heralds from clearly left-of-center publications where worldview is more important than bottom line. They establish themselves in the world of coastal liberalism devoid of the practical sensibilities of river valley heartland ethic. They work their way into mainstream publications and shift their polemic to "objective" writing. But they still maintain their roots on the left, which is far more valuable in Washington than the practical experience of a real job.
Mark Murray is married to the chief of staff of the FAA, who before that worked directly for the transportation secretary. He joins a long list of Washington reporters marrying into the Obama Administration. Jay Carney worked for Time magazine, but left to be Joe Biden's press secretary. When he became White House press secretary, Biden extracted Shailagh Murray from the Washington Post. She is married to Neil King of the Wall Street Journal.
Chuck Todd of NBC is a former Democratic staffer and is married to the former head of communications for the DNC. Ruth Marcus, the editorial page editor at the Washington Post, is married to the former chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. Barack Obama put him in that position. Jonathan Allen left Politico to go work for Debbie Wasserman Schultz. He eventually went back to Politico to be their senior Washington correspondent.
The revolving door between the media, their spouses and the Obama Administration is not a new phenomenon. But it is much more common. Barack Obama is both a patron and saint for much of the Washington press. He employs the spouses of the press corps who in turn feign objective coverage.
Where once we had grizzled journalists who had been on a battlefield or in a coal mine and had stories to tell, we now have well-moisturized childless hipsters from the Ivy League convinced they can relate to the heartland of America and who are convinced their values are the values of the country.
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