The Aerobic Adoration of Obama

By Tim Graham | November 18, 2020 | 10:05am EST
 Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a joint news conference held with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Al Hummar Palace March 22, 2013 in Amman, Jordan. (Photo credit: Jordan Pix/Getty Images)
Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a joint news conference held with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Al Hummar Palace March 22, 2013 in Amman, Jordan. (Photo credit: Jordan Pix/Getty Images)

Someone might survey the current media landscape and lecture us conservative media watchdogs that our game is over. Is anyone in America so remarkably naive to believe that the news media are "objective" and nonpartisan, fair and balanced? This old claim seems to have been obliterated under President Donald Trump, but it was also deeply eroded in the media's incessant and aerobic adoration of former President Barack Obama.

Obviously, conservatives believe that the job of holding the news media accountable is ineluctably connected to the media's alleged watchdog role. As long as the "objective" press sounds like tinny echoes of the latest Democratic Party messaging, someone needs to stay on watch and call it out.

After four years of reflection (and a reported $65 million his and hers book advance), the Almighty Barack Obama has come forward to bless the media with a 768-page memoir — and it's only volume one, with another one expected to follow. This takes the Obama-loving reader through the victorious takedown of Osama bin Laden in May 2011.

The New York Times book review by novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was typically unctuous: "Barack Obama is as fine a writer as they come. It is not merely that this book avoids being ponderous, as might be expected, even forgiven, of a hefty memoir, but that it is nearly always pleasurable to read, sentence by sentence, the prose gorgeous in places, the detail granular and vivid."

This is the same spin about Obama's literary gifts that came with his first memoir, "Dreams of My Father," published back in 1995. Never mind that liberal journalist David Maraniss exposed a lot of "fake news" in there in his own Obama book in 2012, but no one noticed.

The CBS "news" network devoted 48 minutes to promoting Obama's new memoir with the usual wingtip-kissing interviews. It shamelessly began on "CBS Sunday Morning" with host Gayle King, who has vacationed with the Obamas, which CBS thinks is a plus, not an ethical minus. She proclaimed, "people have been reaching out to me saying, you know, they forgot — not forgot, but it was a reminder about the humanity and intelligence of Barack Obama, and also Michelle Obama."

Then she asked a typical question — er, statement: "Ted Kennedy said to you, 'You don't choose the time. The time chooses you.'"

Then came "60 Minutes," on which Obama has received many memorable tongue baths from former CBS correspondent Steve Kroft. In this case, the reporter/publicist was Scott Pelley, who mostly seemed interested in getting Obama to denounce Trump for trashing our democracy.

There was also an interview with National Public Radio, where Obama has received many foot massages from morning host Steve Inskeep but weekend anchor Michel Martin almost makes Inskeep look tough. She began by asking Obama: "Have you developed any interesting COVID habits? Like some people are gardening. Mrs. Obama indicated she was learning to knit."

Obama returned a favor by granting another interview to Jeffrey Goldberg, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, who, after a series of Obama interviews in 2016, proclaimed on NPR that Obama was "the greatest terrorist hunter in the history of the American presidency."

Like Pelley, Goldberg obsessed over Trump: "How much of the death and destruction we've seen — over the past five or six months especially, after the beginning of the pandemic — do you blame on President Trump?" Obama gave the media's usual answer: a lot.

These are only the interviews granted before this doorstop of a book is available in stores. But we can already see that, as Bernard Goldberg memorably described in his book title, this "slobbering love affair" never ends.

Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog

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