Newsweek Boss Jon Meacham: 'I Did Not Drink the Obama Kool-Aid Last Year'

April 2nd, 2009 9:05 PM

The Ventura County Star reports that Newsweek editor Jon Meacham spoke at the Reagan Library, and expressed the viewpoint that President Obama should be given a chance to see if his policies will work.

"I’m trying to give Obama some time," Meacham said, speaking Tuesday night before more than 500 people at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.

"I don’t think Obama is a closet socialist I think he’s a very careful man," he added. "As a journalist, I did not drink the Obama Kool-Aid last year. I think if he walks across the Potomac, his feet will get wet."

That might come as a surprise to someone who saw the gooey Obama covers of Newsweek, like the one that caused NBC's Brian Williams to ask Obama about the "honors" that have come his way? Or Meacham’s gauzy statements in appearances on the Charlie Rose show on PBS. On one, he oozed, "He can’t write an ineloquent check, this man."

On another Rose show with colleague Evan Thomas right after the election, he disagreed with Thomas claiming there was a "slightly creepy cult of personality" around Obama, and compared Obama’s charisma to Reagan’s:

He understands the character of Obama in this drama he's constructed. It's fascinating. He says, ‘I am a screen on which people project their visions, their hopes,’ and he could be a redemptive figure as long as race was implicit and not explicit. As long as he was as, you know, smart as he could be, work as hard as he could -- as Evan says, create a FDR-like circle around him with everyone trying to help him, he could be the center of attention, the star of this, and that's, I think -- and this is -- I slightly disagree. I don't think it's creepy. I think it's -- I think it's like Reagan. I think it's like great charismatic leaders who project brilliantly, but who are, in fact, in control -- very much in control behind the scenes.

He and Rose then discussed how Obama looked down at the adoring masses at the end of a triumphant speech, like the convention speech in Denver:

MEACHAM: He watches us watching him.

ROSE: Exactly. He does --

MEACHAM: It's amazing.

ROSE: It is amazing.

The Ventura County paper noted Meacham said nice things about Reagan's presidency, with Nancy Reagan in the audience:

"I would not be doing what I’m doing, either at Newsweek or with history, were it not for Ronald Reagan. For me, President Reagan made politics appealing and seductive," he said.

Former first lady Nancy Reagan attended the forum. This week she received an honorary doctorate for her contributions to public service from Eureka College in Illinois, President Reagan’s alma mater. Meacham addressed her directly at one point in his talk.

"The United States of America and the world at large owe your husband a debt that cannot be repaid," he said.