Pity the Prez: NYT Blog Hauls Out the 'Distraction' Meme Again (Update: Press Treated NoKo as a Distraction in April 2009)

November 23rd, 2010 7:22 PM

I heard Rush mention this Caucus Blog item at the New York Times on his program today.

It seems that the Times's Michael Shear is disappointed that Dear Leader is yet again caught up in a "distraction" ("Pat-Downs Ensnare White House in New Distraction"). It's headlined in the item's browser window as "Pat-Downs Ensnare White House in New Controversy." Interesting edit, don't you think? If it's a "controversy," the President owns it. If it's a "distraction," well, it's an unfair intrusion. Clever.

Shear wrapped it in a narrative whose theme was that "It all felt vaguely familiar." Well, yeah. What's more than vaguely familiar has been the press's tendency to lament the distractions our supposedly otherwise focused like a laser beam chief executive must endure. On April 9, 2009 (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I noted that "The words 'Obama' and 'distraction' have both appeared in 2,425 articles in just the past 30 days; excluding duplicates, it's about 450."

In his blog entry, Shear listed many other awful distractions the president has encountered. What's interesting are how many of them escalated because of Obama or people working directly for him:

Mr. Obama has repeatedly found himself off message and embroiled in events that quickly capture the imagination of the public, the news media and his adversaries.


Early in his presidency, Mr. Obama was caught up in the whirlwind surrounding the arrest of an African-American professor in Cambridge after he said the officer in the case had “acted stupidly.” The media frenzy didn’t end until the three men shared a beer at the White House.


There was the flap over the mosque to be built near ground zero in New York, which for a time became the primary focus of attention in the White House briefing room. Mr. Obama contributed to the spirited public debate by weighing in on the subject during an iftar dinner at the White House.


The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico strained the physical resources of the federal government as containment efforts failed for months. But the issue became political and strained the communication resources of the White House, which was repeatedly diverted from focusing on the economy to explain the government’s actions.


In July, the odd case of Shirley Sherrod, the agriculture department employee who was fired, again pulled Mr. Obama into a sideshow about race and politics. In September, a Florida pastor threatened to burn a Koran, once again pulling the White House into a national conversation.


Like those incidents, the furor over the pat-downs started outside the White House. In this case, a San Diego man refused to submit to a full-body scanner and then secretly recorded the pat-down that he received instead.

Geez, Michael, Obama hasn't "found himself off message"; he or people who supposedly directly report to him have caused it:

  • Obama is the one who said the Cambridge cop (by the way, he has a name: James Crowley) "acted stupidly."
  • Obama is the one who decided that making a statement about the Ground Zero Mosque was so important (Mr. Shear might get a call from someone at the Times about using the politically incorrect term "Ground Zero Mosque").
  • The BP oil spill's fallout arose largely when Carol Browner, who if she isn't in the White House definitely is one the president's dozens of unaccountable czars, played editing games with a report whose apparently predetermined goal was to support an oil drilling moratorium that was opposed by the scientists whose opinions and assessments were originally sought.

As to the "pat-down furor," a cleansed term for what are in essence computerized strip searches, occasionally accompanied by the functional equivalent of physical strip searches, if intrusions on the public's personal privacy and dignity represent an unimportant distraction, you have to start asking yourself what this guy thinks is important. I'd be tempted to give him a pass given what's going on with North Korea, but Obama already is starting to seem strangely detached from those dangerous developments too.

One of these days the press, and the President, will realize that distractions come with the job, and that it's a waste of time, energy, and effort to lament their existence. That time will probably arrive when the Republican or conservative occupies the Oval Office.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

UPDATE: It should be noted that the press was treating North Korea as an unwelcome distraction at the time of my April 2009 NewsBusters post. Columnist Mark Steyn waxed sardonic about the strange priorities:

Tom Blumer of Newsbusters notes that in the past 30 days there have been some 2,500 stories featuring Obama and "distractions," as opposed to about 800 "distractions" for Bush in his entire second term. The sub-headline of the Reuters story suggests the unprecedented pace at which the mountain of distractions is piling up: "First North Korea, Iran - now Somali pirates."


Er, OK. So the North Korean test is a "distraction," the Iranian nuclear program is a "distraction," and the seizure of a U.S.-flagged vessel in international waters is a "distraction." Maybe it would be easier just to have the official State Department maps reprinted with the Rest of the World relabeled "Distractions."

There's no shortage of irony here, is there?