Eli Saslow is the author of a Washington Post puff-piece about Obama’s days in the Illinois state legislature during which, in reality, Obama distinguished himself by voting “present” a lot and by inducing a party leader to stick Obama’s name on legislation his party had been working on for years. Saslow now turns to Obama’s time in the U.S. Senate. The result more closely resembles a Hallmark card than actual reporting.
Saslow focuses on Obama’s alleged approach to his job — massive amounts of attention to policy, a wondrous ability to “listen,” an austere lifestyle, and a self-effacing deference to more senior members. Saslow does not address reports that Obama alienated members of both parties by attempting (as he did successfully in Illinois) to horn his way in on legislation others were advancing. He has nothing to say about Obama’s clash with John McCain, who found the new Senator to be an unreliable partner on ethics reforms. There is no mention of Obama’s unwillingness to stick his neck out by supporting legislation sponsored by McCain and other Republicans to deal with serious concerns about Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac. Obama apparently knew there might be a problem here. But rather than doing anything concrete to fix it, he was content to create a “paper trail” by writing a letter about the issue.
Saslow mentions Iraq only by way of demonstrating Obama’s supposed modesty — he waited 11 months to make a speech on the subject and then called only for a timetable for withdrawal. The rest of the story — Obama’s twists and turns, depending on the short-term situation in Iraq and his own political ambitions — goes unremarked. One man’s self-effacing listener is another man’s gutless wonder.
The sort of bio pieces Saslow is producing typically appear early in a campaign, as folks are being introduced to the candidates. However, the Washington Post probably realizes that many voters are in the process of making a final assessment of Obama. It seems determined to ensure that this assessment is based on as little content as possible.
The Post has essentially gone out of the reporting business when it comes to Barack Obama. And there’s not much reason to believe it will re-enter that domain if Obama is elected president.
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