Endless Honeymoon

Having run interference for Barack Obama throughout the campaign, the press is now preparing to do the same once he has been sworn in. A common theme, as the media anticipate Barack’s ascendancy, is how tough he has it. Today’s Associated Press account is typical: “Like Lincoln and FDR, Obama faces nation in crisis:”

All presidents are tested. Few walk into the Oval Office when the nation is in the throes of multiple crises.

Like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President-elect Obama is facing a banking emergency.

Like Abraham Lincoln, Obama is trying to patch up national divisions. …

“With two wars and an economic crisis, this is one step away from what Lincoln or FDR faced,” said Terry Sullivan, associate professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Well, yes, I can see the analogies. Like Lincoln, Obama will take office confronted by a threat of secession and civil war from the states that supported his opponent. No, wait….

The better analogy must be Roosevelt, who took office with the nation more than two years into a depression and with unemployment at 25%. Hey, at 6.5%, we’re a quarter of the way there! In addition, of course, not only did Roosevelt face a “banking crisis” of his own, he had to worry about fascism rising in Europe and the threat of world war.

The “two wars” meme is one we’re hearing a lot, but by historical standards it’s pretty silly. The war in Iraq is nearly won, while the Afghan conflict has so far claimed the lives of 609 American military personnel, every one of them a hero. But still: around 400,000 American servicemen died in World War II. Let’s have a little sense of perspective here.

Actually, it isn’t just Lincoln and Roosevelt who took office under more difficult conditions than Obama. Think of Truman; World War II was still raging and he had to decide to use atomic weapons to bring it to an end; beyond that, the Soviet threat was visible on the horizon. Or Eisenhower, who assumed office while the Korean War was going on. Or Richard Nixon: Vietnam and riots in the streets. Or Ronald Reagan, who began his Presidency with unemployment at 7.5 % and inflation at 12%. Was there a banking crisis? Oh yes, interest rates were at 18-20%. Now, THAT was an economic challenge! In addition, not only was the Cold War in full swing, the U.S. was losing with the Soviet Union advancing around the world.

It’s not hard to understand what lies behind the current spate of articles on how tough Barack has it. Reporters and editors are preparing the battlefield. They are concerned that Obama’s first year or two won’t appear to be notably successful, so they’re lining up excuses in advance. How long are they willing to continue to cut their candidate some slack?

Knowing his opening moves will be widely scrutinized, Obama tried to roll back expectations on election night.

“Our climb will be steep,” he said. “We may not get there in one year or even in one term.”

Yet he remained upbeat as did Roosevelt, who took the reins of a nation in the depths of the Depression.

That answers the question, I think. The press is already preparing to run interference for Obama’s campaign for a second term.

PAUL adds: The two wars that Obama and his cheerleaders harp on have ensured that Obama won’t have to deal with two regimes that attacked and/or abetted attacks on us and/or our allies during the presidencies of Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II. The two wars are part of a larger effort that has routed terrorists around the world and vastly decreased the likelihood of a successful attack on the U.S. during Obama’s administration.

Ironically, though, Obama actually does have it tough when it comes to one foreign situation that the Bush administration hasn’t successfully handled — Iran’s substantial progress towards developing nuclear weapons. For obvious reasons, Obama and his cheerleaders are less inclined to portray this as a crisis. The AP story John links to above makes no mention of Iran.

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