From the moment then-state senator Barack Obama showed up on the national stage to address the Democratic convention in 2004, the news media were in love. “Obama is a rock star,” NBC’s Andrea Mitchell exclaimed during MSNBC’s live convention coverage back on July 27, 2004. The next morning, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos echoed Mitchell’s enthusiasm: “He’s the Tiger Woods of the Democratic Party right now.”
When Obama ran for President four years later, news reporters led the cheers. “It’s almost hard to remain objective because it’s infectious, the energy, I think,” then-NBC reporter Lee Cowan confessed in an MSNBC.com video posted January 7, 2008. On CNN a few days later, Politico editor John Harris admitted: “A couple years ago, you would send a reporter out with Obama, and it was like they needed to go through detox when they came back — ‘Oh, he’s so impressive, he’s so charismatic,’ and we’re kind of like, ‘Down, boy.’”
As a candidate, the Associated Press celebrated Obama as “something special,” while as President-elect, the Washington Post drooled over his “chiseled pectorals,” on display during a vacation in Hawaii. As President, reporters touted his “prodigious talents,” his “amazing legislative agenda,” and his “huge achievements.” And as an individual, journalists fawned over Obama, calling him “one of our brightest presidents,” a “huge visionary,” “the perfect American,” “our national poet,” and “the most noble man who has ever lived in the White House.”
With the Democratic Party defeated, ObamaCare set for repeal, and incoming President Donald Trump poised to revoke a host of his executive orders, Obama’s actual legacy will likely fall far short of what his media fan club once imagined. But one aspect of his place in history seems secure: Barack Obama has been the lucky recipient of more biased, positive “news” media coverage than any other President in history.
Here are some examples from the past decade, starting with a video montage of the audio and video quotes detailed below:
“Obama seemed the political equivalent of a rainbow — a sudden preternatural event inspiring awe and ecstasy....He transcends the racial divide so effortlessly that it seems reasonable to expect that he can bridge all the other divisions — and answer all the impossible questions — plaguing American public life.”
— Time’s Joe Klein, October 23, 2006 cover story, “Why Barack Obama Could Be the Next President.”
“Many people, afterwards [after Obama’s 2004 convention speech], they weren’t sure how to pronounce your name but they were moved by you. People were crying. You tapped into something. You touched people....If your party says to you, ‘We need you,’ and, and there’s already a drumbeat out there, will you respond?”
— Co-host Meredith Vieira to Obama on NBC’s Today, October 19, 2006.
“You can see it in the crowds. The thrill, the hope. How they surge toward him. You’re looking at an American political phenomenon....He inspires the party faithful and many others, like no one else on the scene today....And the question you can sense on everyone’s mind, as they listen so intently to him, is he the one? Is Barack Obama the man, the black man, who could lead the Democrats back to the White House and maybe even unite the country?...Everywhere he goes, people want him to run for President, especially in Iowa, cradle of presidential contenders. Around here, they’re even naming babies after him.”
— Co-anchor Terry Moran on ABC’s Nightline, November 6, 2006.
Co-anchor Chris Matthews: “I have to tell you, you know, it’s part of reporting this case, this election, the feeling most people get when they hear Barack Obama’s speech. My — I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don’t have that too often.”
Co-anchor Keith Olbermann: “Steady.”
Matthews: “No, seriously. It’s a dramatic event. He speaks about America in a way that has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with the feeling we have about our country. And that is an objective assessment.”
— Exchange during MSNBC’s coverage of the Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. primaries, February 12, 2008.
“On the bus ride along the snowy road to Lebanon, New Hampshire, I showed him this week’s Newsweek, hot off the presses. [to Obama] How does this feel, of all the honors that have come your way, all the publicity?...Who does it make you think of? Is there, is there a loved one?”
— NBC’s Brian Williams on the January 7, 2008 Nightly News.
“Presidential campaigns have destroyed many bright and capable politicians. But there’s ample evidence that Obama is something special, a man who makes difficult tasks look easy, who seems to touch millions of diverse people with a message of hope that somehow doesn’t sound Pollyannaish.”
— AP writer Charles Babington in a May 10, 2008 dispatch.
<<< Please support MRC's NewsBusters team with a tax-deductible contribution today. >>>
“Some princes are born in palaces. Some are born in mangers. But a few are born in the imagination, out of scraps of history and hope....Barack Hussein Obama did not win because of the color of his skin. Nor did he win in spite of it. He won because at a very dangerous moment in the life of a still young country, more people than have ever spoken before came together to try to save it. And that was a victory all its own.”
— Time’s Nancy Gibbs in the November 17, 2008 post-election cover story.
“Between workouts during his Hawaii vacation this week, he was photographed looking like the paradigm of a new kind of presidential fitness, one geared less toward preventing heart attacks than winning swimsuit competitions. The sun glinted off chiseled pectorals sculpted during four weightlifting sessions each week, and a body toned by regular treadmill runs and basketball games.”
— Washington Post reporter Eli Saslow in a December 25, 2008 front-page story about Obama’s vacation fitness regimen.
“By now we are all accustomed to that Obi-Wan Kenobi calm....[But] what now seems most salient about Obama is the opposite of flashy, the antithesis of rhetoric: he gets things done. He is a man about his business — a Mr. Fix It going to Washington....Spare us the dead-or-alive bravado, the gates-of-hell bluster, the melodrama of the 3 a.m. phone call. A door swung open for a candidate who would merely stand and deliver....In the land of the hapless, the competent man is king.”
— Editor-at-large David von Drehle in his cover story announcing Obama as Time’s “Man of the Year,” December 29, 2008 issue.
“I like to say that, in some ways, Barack Obama is the first President since George Washington to be taking a step down into the Oval Office. I mean, from visionary leader of a giant movement, now he’s got an executive position that he has to perform in, in a way.”
— ABC News correspondent Terry Moran to Media Bistro’s Steve Krakauer in a February 20, 2009 “Morning Media Menu” podcast.
“The legislative achievements have been stupendous — the $789 billion stimulus bill, the budget plan that is still being hammered out (and may, ultimately, include the next landmark safety-net program, universal health insurance). There has also been a cascade of new policies to address the financial crisis — massive interventions in the housing and credit markets, a market-based plan to buy the toxic assets that many banks have on their books, a plan to bail out the auto industry and a strict new regulatory regime proposed for Wall Street. Obama has also completely overhauled foreign policy, from Cuba to Afghanistan. ‘In a way, Obama’s 100 days is even more dramatic than Roosevelt’s,’ says Elaine Kamarck of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. ‘Roosevelt only had to deal with a domestic crisis. Obama has had to overhaul foreign policy as well, including two wars. And that’s really the secret of why this has seemed so spectacular.’”
— Time’s Joe Klein in the magazine’s May 4, 2009 cover story on Barack Obama’s first 100 days as President.
“People who brief him say he is able to game out scenarios before the experts in the room, even on foreign policy, national security and other issues in which he had relatively little expertise before running for president. Obama is approaching the issues as a game of ‘three-dimensional chess,’ said John O. Brennan, an assistant to the President for homeland security and counterterrorism. ‘It’s not kinetic checkers....There are moves that are made on the chess board that really have implications, so the President is always looking at those dimensions of it.’”
— Carrie Johnson and Anne E. Kornblut in a front-page Washington Post story, August 28, 2009.
“It is impossible to write about Nelson Mandela these days and not compare him to another potentially transformational black leader, Barack Obama. The parallels are many....And while it took twenty-seven years in prison to mold the Nelson Mandela we know, the forty-eight-year-old American president seems to have achieved a Mandela-like temperament without the long years of sacrifice....Whatever Mandela may or may not think of the new American President, Obama is in many ways his true successor on the world stage.”
— From Time managing editor Richard Stengel’s introduction to his new self-help book, Mandela’s Way: Fifteen Lessons on Life, Love, and Courage, quoted by Politico’s Mike Allen in a March 30, 2010 Web posting.
“People from all over the world, frankly, say to me, here comes a President with a huge mandate, a huge reservoir of goodwill, huge promises to change, and, with all of that, his popularity is down. People don’t appreciate some of the amazing legislative agenda that he’s accomplished.”
— Host Christiane Amanpour to Obama advisor David Axelrod on ABC’s This Week, September 26, 2010.
“Can we just enjoy Obama for a moment? Before the policy choices have to be weighed and the hard decisions have to be made, can we just take a month or two to contemplate him the way we might contemplate a painting by Vermeer or a guitar lick by the early-seventies Rolling Stones or a Peyton Manning pass or any other astounding, ecstatic human achievement? Because twenty years from now, we’re going to look back on this time as a glorious idyll in American politics, with a confident, intelligent, fascinating president riding the surge of his prodigious talents from triumph to triumph....Barack Obama is developing into what Hegel called a ‘world-historical soul,’ an embodiment of the spirit of the times. He is what we hope we can be.”
— Esquire’s Stephen Marche in a column for the magazine’s August 2011 issue: “How Can We Not Love Obama? Because Like It or Not, He Is All of Us.”
“When you watch the President like that, I always feel he’s got so many pluses, doesn’t he? In a sense, he’s personable, he’s handsome, he can be funny. You know, abroad he has this great image for America. A lot of things are just perfect about Barack Obama.”
— Host Piers Morgan to Obama strategist David Axelrod on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight, December 5, 2011.
“This guy’s done everything right. He’s raised his family right. He’s fought his way all the way to the top of the Harvard Law Review, in a blind test becomes head of the Review, the top editor there. Everything he’s done is clean as a whistle. He’s never not only broken any law, he’s never done anything wrong. He’s the perfect father, the perfect husband, the perfect American. And all they do is trash the guy.”
— MSNBC’s Chris Matthews talking about President Obama on Hardball, July 17, 2012.
The New Yorker’s David Remnick: “The fact that this country didn’t fall into a depression, an economic depression, which it could easily have done; the fact that we are out of Iraq, for all the problems in Iraq, getting there in Afghanistan; the auto industry saved; gay rights more and more ensured, not without help from the President of the United States; the fact that there’s been no scandal, major scandal, in this administration, which is a rare thing in an administration; the fact that science is now discussed as science; the fact that climate change, however woefully inadequate the measures for it, is now-”
Host Charlie Rose: “Does this measure up to greatness for you?”
Remnick: “Well, let’s wait ‘til the end....[But] I think those achievements are huge.”
— PBS’s Charlie Rose, January 20, 2014, talking about Remnick’s cover story on Obama’s presidency.
“We don’t know if the Iran deal is going to work. If it does, it will be the major foreign policy achievement, not only of this presidency, but of this American generation. At which point, people in the not-too-distant future will look back at this presidency, they’ll look back at this President and they’ll say, ‘Oh, of course they gave him the Nobel Peace Prize. Of course they did.’”
— Host Rachel Maddow on her eponymous MSNBC show, July 14, 2015.
“Americans are lucky to have Barack Obama as President and we should wake up and appreciate it while we can. President Obama will go down in history as an extraordinary president, probably a great one....Many Presidents fared better in history than in office. But it would be a morale booster and a sign of civic maturity if more Americans appreciated what an exceptional President they have right now. It could be a long wait for the next one.”
— Washington Bureau Chief for Scripps News and former CBS News producer Dick Meyer, in a July 16, 2015 Decode DC op-ed titled: “Mr. President, on behalf of an ungrateful nation, thank you.”
PBS’s Charlie Rose: “I want to raise two big issues about him that are fascinating to me and, Jon, all of you. How smart is he? What’s the sense of — is he one of our brightest presidents?”
Longtime Newsweek editor Jon Meacham: “I think so, absolutely. I think so, and I think it has all of the pluses and minuses of that.
Rose: “I’m asking from a real standpoint.”
Meacham: “It’s a keen analytical intelligence.”
— Exchange on Charlie Rose, January 12, 2016.
“Wait. One of the Greatest?...Like 20-Dollar Bill great? Like Mount Rushmore great? Yep. (We just won’t build Mount Rushmores anymore.) In so many ways, Obama was better than we imagined, better than the body politic deserved, and far, far better than his enemies will ever concede.... We’ll look back at history, hopefully when we’re zooming down the Barack Obama Hyperloop Transport System, and think: That man was rare. And we were damn lucky to have him.”
— GQ editor-in-chief Jim Nelson in an April 14, 2016 online article “Why Obama Will Go Down as One of the Greatest Presidents of All Time: Already missing our soon-to-be-former POTUS.”
“Really, has there been any President cooler than Obama?”
— May 10, 2016 tweet from Newsweek’s official Twitter account, plugging an online piece on whether Barack Obama is “the first pop culture President.”
“[Barack Obama] invoked the audacity of hope, all of the spirit, all of the creativity of his own brilliant speech writing....I don’t think we’ve ever had a President, save Lincoln, who is as great a speechwriter as this man.”
— Correspondent Andrea Mitchell following Barack Obama’s speech as aired on MSNBC’s live Democratic convention coverage, July 27, 2016.
“It’s hard, frankly, to stop quoting from his [Barack Obama’s] remarks because they amounted to one of the most moving, inspiring valentines to this country that I’ve ever heard, brimming with regard for it and gratitude to it. We’re going to miss this man, America. Whatever his flaws, he’s been more than our president. Time and again, he’s been our national poet.”
— New York Times columnist Frank Bruni in July 28, 2016 piece, “Freedom from Fear.”
“President Obama is the most noble man who has ever lived in the White House and he proved that again today....”
— Host Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC’s The Last Word, November 9, 2016.