TPMCafe | Talking Points Memo | "Presumptuous": "Barack Obama has long been his party's presumptive nominee. Now he's becoming its presumptuous nominee." That's Dana Milbank in this morning's WP. Imagine! Obama holds
meetings with enthusiastic supporters from his own party"pep rallies"! He gets motorcades! He plans a presidential transition! (Everyone knows it's far better to wait ll November.)
The "presumptuous" meme is swooping virally through the media. Nexis picks up 23 mentions in major newspapers in less than three weeks--about one a day. Why do I think what they really mean is "uppity"? Thanks to Matt Yglesias for ringing the bell on the vile, even crazy part of Milbank's stuff, his interpretation of Obama's talk to House Democrats. I can't put this any better than Matt:
So it seems that Barack Obama said something like: "It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign, that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It's about America. I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions." One could dispute that theory, but it's not a particularly remarkable thing to say. You have a candidate who was greeted enthusiastically in Europe saying that the enthusiasm was about something larger than him -- about the United States and about the values Barack Obama and millions of other Americans cherish and hope will once again govern the country.
But Dana Millbank wanted to write an article about how "Barack Obama has long been his party's presumptive nominee. Now he's becoming its presumptuous nominee."... And now for hours the press and the GOP have been in a frenzy about Obama's arrogance. Because he tried to say something humble about why he was greeting by hundreds of thousands of people when he gave a speech.
John McCain is traveling around in $520 loafers--silly me, I didn't know there were any such things--but he's not called "presumptuous" for it. He claims to have foreign policy experience because he was a prisoner of war, but he's not called "presumptuous" for that, either.
Come on, journalists, have the guts to say what you mean. Use the U-word out front.
Update: Not having spent enough time on the Internets the last few days, I missed earlier callouts of the presumptuous/uppity meme. Hat tips to Bob Cesca and the indefatigable Digby...
Bob Cesca: The Barbeque Media Wants Senator Obama To Win? That's Rich.: As we have observed throughout the last several years, the notion of fairness in journalism has been guided by a miscalculated rule that in order to report good news about a liberal or a liberal success, news reporting has to be counterbalanced either with unearned praise for conservatives or trumped up and parroted negative news about the aforementioned liberal or liberal success. Oh, and the reverse doesn't apply. That's the rule.
And so now that Senator Obama's Berlin address is in the can, get ready for the backlash from the very serious corporate media. Get ready for profuse around-the-clock praise of Senator McCain and/or unfair, invented criticism of Senator Obama. Because reporting the news, however accurate, about Senator Obama's successful trip to the Middle East and Europe isn't news. It's obviously biased reporting against the McCain campaign.
That's all we've heard from the McBush Republicans this week: griping about the press coverage of Senator Obama's trip, as if such an epic event isn't newsworthy.... And it appears as if the McCain campaign's Gripe Surge is working:
HANNITY: Scott Rasmussen has a poll, 49 percent of Americans think the media is trying to help Barack Obama win. Only 14 percent think they're trying to help you win.
MCCAIN: The American people are very wise.
When the press aired the Wright videos around the clock for approximately six weeks while continuing to refer to Senator Obama as "Osama bin Laden," they've clearly been employing some kind of magic or trickery -- some kind of scary reverse psychology. You know, to help Senator Obama. Thankfully the American people were "wise" to it....
On Tuesday's edition of Morning Joe, Mika Brzeznski, Andrea Mitchell and Very Serious Mark Halperin (who publicly encouraged Senator McCain to convince people that Senator Obama is a terrorist) agreed that after three days of reporting the actual news that Senator Obama's overseas visit was successful, they should deliberately attempt to "trip him up" -- to "hold him accountable." Oh yeah? For what? We're gonna hold him accountable for not screwing the pooch on this trip -- the rat bastard! We're very serious! Barack's a Muslim terrorist [Halperin only]!
Then CBS News, showing its obvious penchant for wanting Senator Obama to win, edited out Senator McCain's laughable error with regards to the Anbar Awakening -- another in an on-going syllabus of McCain ignorance, which further proves that he's really not the Mighty Old Man of Awesome Foreign Policy Experience and Balls. Suggesting that there's such a thing as an Iraq/Pakistan border in a Today Show interview on Monday didn't help either.
But as the rule goes, the only way the corporate press (Olbermann, Maddow and the like excluded) can make a beef about these things would be to find a similar gaffe or mistake by Senator Obama and report on that first. And since nothing recent exists... Pass! Next!
And today, the word of the day in the corporate press is... "presumptuous." Used in a sentence: Senator Obama is being presumptuous during his trip -- acting all presidential and dignified. How dare he be presidential while running for, you know, president. Presumptuous....
AP: "In a speech that risked being seen as presumptuous..." TIME Magazine: "capable to become the Commander in Chief of a superpower -- without seeming presumptuous..." The National Journal: "He is well aware voters here at home might see that as presumptuous..." Washington Post: "Whether by the end of this week he will be seen as presumptuous or overly cocky..." Chicago Tribune: "That means walking the fine line between looking presidential and appearing arrogant and presumptuous..." Boston Globe: "plus the growing sense in some quarters that the presumptive Democratic nominee is getting a little presumptuous..."
The reality is that positive coverage of any Democrat is limited and temporary for fear of networks and newspapers either being accused of liberal bias or being tossed out of the very serious barbeque loop. Regardless of whether the Democrat, in this case Senator Obama, is having a good day, it's somehow unethical to report on such good news for too long without deliberately concocting an antidote to appease the far-right. So rather than standing up as the only industry explicitly named in the Constitution and defending the very basic idea of journalistic integrity, the corporate media is all too quick to capitulate to these specious Republican attacks -- that is, when they're not tossing their ethics aside and taking bribes in the form of barbeque and McBusch beer from a candidate whom they're supposed to be covering objectively...
And Bob Kilgore:
Democratic Strategist: "Presumptuous" Transition Planning: The latest McCain campaign attack line on Barack Obama, representing one of the few options for mocking the Democrat's highly successful overseas trip, and building on the older idea that Obama's some sort of egomaniacal Messiah figure ("The One," as McCain's staff calls him), has been that he's pretending to have already won the presidency. This meme got a boost today from WaPo's Dana Milbank, who had some irresponsible fun with the idea that Obama's gone from being the "presumptive" nominee to the "presumptuous" nominee who's engaging in a "victory tour" and "acting presidential."
Since a lot of the people mocking Obama's "presumptuousness" are also predicting that Obama could lose because Americans just can't envision him as Commander-in-Chief, this is a pretty disingenuous criticism. But the particular complaint that really makes me crazy is this one, as articulated by Milbank:
The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder reported last week that Obama has directed his staff to begin planning for his transition to the White House, causing Republicans to howl about premature drape measuring.
We should all hope that both candidates are putting into motion some planning for a post-victory transition.... [S]omehow, I doubt that most critics of Obama's "presumptuousness" had issues with George W. Bush's open transition planning during the Florida crisis of 2000, which had the cover, of course, of Bush's claim that he had already won.
The idea that directing staff to begin thinking about the transition represents some sort of "taking the eyes off the ball" mistake by Obama doesn't make any sense, either. Certainly his policy staff has some spare time; with the candidate's agenda and platform already in place, their labors will be largely limited to new developments; nuances related to the candidate's travel (viz. the deployment of his foreign policy advisors during the overseas trip); and later on, debate prep...
And, of course, nothing would be complete without yet another Jonathan Weisman special. Jonathan writes:
Obama's Symbolic Importance | The Trail | washingtonpost.com: In his closed door meeting with House Democrats Tuesday night, presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama delivered a real zinger, according to a witness, suggesting that he was beginning to believe his own hype. Obama was waxing lyrical about last week's trip to Europe, when he concluded, according to the meeting attendee, "this is the moment, as Nancy [Pelosi] noted, that the world is waiting for." The 200,000 souls who thronged to his speech in Berlin came not just for him, he told the enthralled audience of congressional representatives. "I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions," he said, according to the source.
It turns out that Weisman was burned by his source.
On Wednesday morning, House leadership aides pushed back against interpretations of this comment as self-aggrandizing, saying that when the presumptive Democratic nominee said, "I have become a symbol of the possibility of America," he was actually trying to deflect attention from himself. No tape of the event exists and no one is denying the quote. But one leadership aide said the full quote put it into a different context. According to that aide, Obama said, "It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign -- that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It's about America. I have just become a symbol."
But even though burned, Weisman continues to guard his source's anonymity--thus saying, "Burn me again!" Please! Soon! I don't publish enough lies!"