When GOP President George W. Bush celebrated his second inauguration in January of 2005, reporters in the political press hammered away at the cost of the event -- about $140 million -- by stating that the money could have been put to better use in the Iraq war and as aid for those caught in the earthquake and tsunami that struck southern Asia a month earlier.
Eight years later, the people in the media could barely contain their glee while covering “Party Time,” Democratic president Barack Obama's second inauguration, with little interest in the cost of the events (about $180 million) even though the nation's unemployment rate is hovering near eight percent and another battle over federal government spending looms on the horizon.
Back in January of 2005, some reporters bashed the expense of Bush's inauguration before the event even got started.
Will Lester of the Associated Press wrote that the money spent on the celebration could instead be used to purchase “200 armored Humvees with the best armor for troops in Iraq” or “vaccinations and preventive health care for 22 million children in regions devastated by the tsunami.”
Terry Moran, who was then ABC’s anchor of “World News Tonight," jumped into the fray by asking: “In a time of war and natural disaster, is it time for a lavish celebration?”
But as NewsBusters previously reported, New York Times reporter Scott Shane noted:
In response to critics who have questioned the propriety of a lavish inaugural celebration in a time of war, Mr. Bush has made the military a central focus of the week's events, and sponsors of other gatherings this week have followed his lead.
In addition, the headline for an NBC News article on Monday's inauguration declared it was “Party Time” and cheerfully exclaimed: “Obamas attend inaugural balls.”
While a handful of reporters, such as CBS's Sharyl Attkisson have mentioned the cost of Obama’s second inaugural, the focus has been only on the access granted to private donors who contribute to the event and not the appropriateness of the event itself.
During Obama's inaugural address, he stated:
America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe. And we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation.
We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom.
Noel Rothman of Mediaite.com responded:
Those very words could have been uttered by America’s 43rd president just eight years ago -- had they been, they would have inspired garment rending among the nation’s handwringers the likes of which had been unseen for at least a decade.
“The obsequiousness and servility with which so many in the media approach the coverage of this administration is and remains a mark of shame,” Rothman added. “It is a noble mission to enforce honesty and accountability from America’s elected and unelected opinion leaders. In fact, it is a mission the political press once shared.”
In comparative terms, there could not be a more apples-to-apples scenario than the two presidents’ inauguration festivities. Both Obama and Bush spent millions on second term kickoff parties during a time of war with American troops risking their lives on a daily basis. Arguably, this time around, Obama has even less about which to celebrate given the poor state of the economy.
Yet despite these obvious similarities, the self-described mainstream media treated both presidents remarkably different, condemning Bush while almost uniformly celebrating Obama, proving once again that they a) only are interested in checking power if it is wielded by Republicans and b) are not the unbiased “referees” they so often proclaim to be.