On Tuesday, USA Today topped their front page with an "Essay by Ken Burns" headlined "National parks feed the American soul." Naturally, this liberal PBS filmmaker/sermonizer began by celebrating Barack Obama, which the newspaper put in large type.
"Just before our documentary film series on the history of our national parks was first broadcast on PBS in the fall of 2009, I had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to share scenes from the film with President Obama in a small screening room at the White House. It was a great honor." He had to confess his wife and kids were "blurred into the background" as he shared his work with this special president:
It was a personal and intimate moment for the president, too, momentarily distracted from the cares of his office. After the screening, he spoke movingly about his own trips to our national parks.
The first — as he recounted so vividly in his memoirs and now to us — occurred when he was a young boy. He was with his mother, grandmother and younger sister. By Greyhound bus, they had traveled to the Grand Canyon and then to Yellowstone. They had stayed at Howard Johnson motels along the way.
He could recall as if it were yesterday this trip taken many decades before: the inspirational view from the south rim of the grandest canyon on Earth, and then in Yellowstone, seeing a bison for the first time. For a young boy growing up in Hawaii, these were amazing sights, and it helped connect him to his country's magnificent landscape and the legacy these saved — and to some sacred — places mean for all Americans. [In an accompanying video, Burns insists the parks are "sacred places."]
Then he began to speak just as movingly as before about another trip he had taken to the parks a few weeks earlier in the summer, this time with his daughters.
Traveling by Air Force One, of course, not a bus, they, too, went as a family to see the Grand Canyon, to marvel at the otherworldly thermal features of Yellowstone, the world's greatest collection of geysers. Sasha and Malia saw their first bison in the wild.
The Obamas were doing what countless millions of American families have done since we saw fit in our infinite wisdom as a democracy to begin to set aside millions of acres of some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth.
USA Today wasn't honest enough to correct Ken Burns. It's a little silly to say you had a "once-in-a-lifetime chance" to meet Obama since he also met with Obama in February. They also didn't mention Burns donated several thousand dollars to Obama in 2008 or that he compared him to Lincoln as he endorsed him gaudily in 2007.
PBS doesn't care about any of these appearance problems, and easily allowed Burns to make a hagiographic Teddy Kennedy film for the 2008 Democratic convention.