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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Obama, Bush, and the Media

At Politico, Josh Gerstein writes:
President Barack Obama has forged a surprising consensus on opposite ends of the political spectrum: They wonder how on earth he gets away with it.

A series of recent moves — from aggressively filling his reelection war chest to green-lighting shoot-to-kill orders against an American terror suspect overseas — would have triggered a massive backlash if George W. Bush had tried them, say former Bush administration officials and a few on the political left. Even Obama’s love for the links draws only gentle ribbing rather than the denunciations that helped drive Bush to give up the game for the balance of his presidency.
The story quotes Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald:
“Virtually all the Democrats who were apoplectic about Bush and were constantly complaining about him ‘trampling on our values’ over eavesdropping and detention have been silent about assassination, even though it’s so much more severe,” Greenwald said. “It isn’t that Obama is necessarily any worse on civil liberties than Bush. The point is he’s able to get away with so much more.”

A White House spokesman declined to comment for this story. But Obama aides have noted that he takes plenty of heat for other policies — such as expanding entitlements or phasing out traditional light bulbs — that were far less controversial when Bush did them. Obama’s recent decision on contraception and religious employers triggered a political firestorm, but a similar policy in place throughout the Bush administration barely registered on the political radar.

Some differences in coverage flow from a simple truth: Stories that feed an established media narrative about a political figure get more attention than those that cut against it. And the press tends to blow up stories when partisans attack one another. Some of Obama’s practices, particularly in the war on terror, are supported by Republicans — even as they cringe at the unanimity.