With one hundred days before the election, New York Times Columnist Frank Rich has declared Democratic nominee Barack Obama the “Acting President” of the United States, based, apparently on the candidate’s ability to assemble large crowd and amass television ratings. But as he basks in the glory of his European adventure, is it possible that Barack Obama has peaked too soon?
In the world of college football, coaches have to remind their players and alumni boosters that championships aren’t won in September, they’re won in January. The same is true of electoral politics. An “acting president” in July must still win in November.
Unfortunately for Obama, the headiness of his European coronation may turn against him in the next fourteen weeks.
The greatest risk for any public figure is to offend the media, it’s main pipeline – yes, even in these days for Facebook, IM and blogs – to voters. When Bill Clinton wagged his finger to the press corps in 1998, and was later proven to be a liar, the press turned – really turned – against him for the first time in his administration.
Heretofore, Barack Obama has enjoyed an amiable relationship with the media, and in some cases, journalists’ conduct could be considered lewd, which has led both of his rivals, Clinton and McCain, to cry foul. But the campaign’s treatment of the press during Obama’s whirlwind tour of the middle East and Europe seems to have soured them on the candidate.
Even before his feet hit the ground in the Middle East, Barack Obama’s relationship with his press entourage when Der Spiegel took a quote from the Iraqi president out of context and interpreted it as an endorsement of Obama and his policies. Having the American press root for you is one thing – that’s just us, kids – but having the foreign press manipulate world leaders on your behalf is not likely to win many votes on this side of the Atlantic.
This unique turn of events continued. On the first stop of Obama’s whirlwind tour, when in Afghanistan, he had no official press pool, no reporters and no press conference on the ground. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell broke ranks with her network colleagues and actually criticized the candidate for conducting what she called, “fake interviews.”
Later on the trip, reporters complained that at Obama press conferences, only the candidate was given a microphone, so only the candidate could be heard but not the reporters’ potentially hostile questioning.
By the time Obama arrived in Berlin to give his Victory Column speech, the mood of the press had turned on the candidate. In the coverage I saw his remarks played second fiddle to the setting and its place in history which were steadily compared to Berlin speeches by presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. Substantively, Obama’s speech did not measure up.
I must admit that I was busy celebrating my birthday, in grand style, over the weeklong Obama trip, but I do not once recall hearing Barack Obama’s voice until his appearance on Meet the Press Sunday morning. His arrogance in not responding to legitimate questions from Tom Brokaw was off-putting, not only to me, but, I suspect, also to the media.
The press has gotten a taste of the “Acting President” Barack Obama administration, and I don’t think they like it. With fourteen weeks to go, Obama’s greatest risk is told in the Greek tragedy of Icarus, who soared on wings made of wax, and ignored the warnings not to fly to high. Drunk with the power of flight, he flew too close to the sun and the wings melted, there was no one there to catch him. If Obama continues to run his campaign like a presidential administration – with tightly-choreographed events and restricted access to the candidate – his alleged allies in the media may no longer be there should he start to fall.