Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama skewered by New York Times

The push-back on Sen. Barack Obama is beginning.

You can't tell first-tier information organizations to take a hike about their concerns over the honesty of the candidate's pronouncements and practices forever.

On Jan. 1, 2008, Richard Cohen of the Washington Post spelled this out to his readers. He was commenting on the way the Obama camp ignores the truth and repeats lies that they know are lies. There is no way to sugar-coat this: Barack Obama is a pathological liar.

Mr. Cohen first lays out the foundation of Mr. Obama's twisted sense of truth and lies, then delivers a haymaker about the senator's staff and its treatment of Michael Dobbs, a one-man truth squad at the Post: "I and others have written that Obama -- as he himself says in the introduction to this book -- invented composite characters and altered chronology. But as the Chicago Tribune also reported, some of the events Obama passionately details seem not to have happened at all. Maybe his memory played tricks on him. Mine sure does . . .

" . . . So the cavalier dismissal of Dobbs, The Post's truth-hunter, is troubling. Since he writes that the Obama campaign would not comment, it is reasonable to assume that it doesn't give a damn -- that this is a little matter and the candidate is engaged in something grand. The phony statistic is, in its way, like a composite. There's a larger truth here, get it?"

Sooner or later - in this case sooner - journalists and opinion writers start a drumbeat that reverberates outward to smaller markets and niche audiences.

David Brooks of the New York Times took up the beat in his Feb. 19, 2008 column entitled, "When the Magic Fades."

He writes within a framework of satirical reference to Mr. Obama's cultish popularity. Mr. Brooks refers to him in prior paragraphs as The Chosen One; His Hopeness; The Hope Pope; and the Trophy Messiah.

Further down the column, he writes a tip-off about where he is headed next: "As the syndrome progresses, they begin to ask questions about The Presence himself."

Asking questions about Barack Obama is exactly where this is all headed. As I wrote previously, the national desks at the first-tier print publications lacked the budget necessary to flesh out Mr. Obama's past, and compare his autobiographical story line to the documentable reality of his life.

But with him in the lead, the money is flowing freely to researchers who are the unseen power behind the executive editor's throne. With web-induced 24/7 news cycles, writers are under around-the-clock deadline pressures to turn out fresh stories and update older ones.

You can't write under the gun like that and still do quality research on your own. Professional researchers are the gatekeepers who decide what to give - or withhold - from journalists. They are the real power that decides what the journalists and editors have to work with, and therefore they control content from the time the article is on the news budget until it prints.

But keep that to yourself. Professional researchers want editors and journalists to believe that editors and journalists are in control. But never forget that editors and journalists only have the research that is gathered by researchers for them. It's a bit of a Flip Wilson routine where life imitates art: What you see (on your desk from your researchers) is what you get (to document your story and send it off to layout for publishing in print and on the web.)

I spell all this out so you can put the arrogant attitude of the Obama camp towards the Post's Mr. Dobbs into its proper perspective. Once Mr. Obama stiffed Mr. Dobbs, it set off what is going to grow into a mad rush to find everything out there that is a negative for Mr. Obama.

This very second, researchers are thinking - expressed borrowing lines voiced by Randy Hayes of the parody troupe My Way Entertainment, "This guy must be crazy. Doesn't he know who we are? We're the Juggernaut! We control the flow of information to editors and journalists. They write from whatever we give to them."

That power is why Mr. Obama is now beginning to get pricked by columnists; telling a news organization's researchers - the keeper of the information gates at that organization - where to get off is telling the columnist where to get off.

The American Idol cult can carry a candidate for a while, but the candidate will always reach a point when he or she must talk one-on-one with journalists.

When that point is reached the journalist will be armed with whatever the researcher provided. It may be good - or - it may be bad. The candidate's relationship with the journalist's researchers determine whether the researchers decide to use this captive interview occasion to get pay-backs for the way the researchers were treated by the candidate and his or her staff in the past.

Looking at the way Mr. Obama handled Mr. Dobbs, I can safely say Sen. Obama doesn't get it.

With that foundation laid, we return to Mr. Brooks, who continues writing that, "Barack Obama vowed to abide by the public finance campaign-spending rules in the general election if his opponent did. But now he’s waffling on his promise. Why does he need to check with his campaign staff members when deciding whether to keep his word?

"Obama says he is practicing a new kind of politics, but why has his PAC sloshed $698,000 to the campaigns of the superdelegates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics? Is giving Robert Byrd’s campaign $10,000 the kind of change we can believe in?"

It gets worse for Mr. Obama: "And should we be worried about Obama’s mountainous self-confidence?

"These doubts lead O.C.S. (Obama Comedown Syndrome) sufferers down the path to the question that is the Unholy of the Unholies for Obama-maniacs: How exactly would all this unity he talks about come to pass?

"How is a 47-year-old novice going to unify highly polarized 70-something committee chairs? What will happen if the nation’s 261,000 lobbyists don’t see the light, even after the laying on of hands? Does The Changemaker have the guts to take on the special interests in his own party — the trial lawyers, the teachers’ unions, the AARP?

"The Gang of 14 created bipartisan unity on judges, but Obama sat it out. Kennedy and McCain created a bipartisan deal on immigration. Obama opted out of the parts that displeased the unions. Sixty-eight senators supported a bipartisan deal on FISA. Obama voted no. And if he were president now, how would the High Deacon of Unity heal the breach that split the House last week?"

The way I expect this to play out is that a number of Times' columnists will continue to do a hatchet job on Sen. John McCain. It doesn't have any choice because the Times has to cover itself with its core constituencies organized along racial, ethnic, and sexual orientation lines.

In just the past week, Frank Rich wrote "The Grand Old White Party Confronts Obama;" Roger Cohen wrote, "A Realist Called Obama;" and Maureen Dowd penned, "To Catch a Thief."

Ultimately, those columnists will have to explain why they are dissing Sen. McCain while giving Sen. Obama a free pass on the personal integrity score.

Ultimately, the Gray Lady will tell her lover to tell her the truth about himself.

She'll demand it.

But she won't get it.

Because for her to get it, Barack Obama has to get it first.

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