And where Harris and VandeHei write, “Reporters are suckers for comparisons—often glib or even bogus comparisons—between current and past presidents,” they should be equally careful with any finger-pointing. They write that Obama has turned his own comparisons to Carter into comparisons with more successful presidents, Reagan and Clinton. But after Obama’s famous Tucson speech, Thrush ran a report for Politico specifically framed by comparisons to Reagan and Clinton—with only the most tangential mention of Carter. The headline: “Obama speech recalls Reagan.” The lede?
Two weeks after President Barack Obama returned from a Hawaiian vacation spent reading a 900-page biography of Ronald Reagan, he delivered a speech in Tucson, Ariz., Wednesday that incorporated, but didn’t parrot, the gilded, common-touch oratory of the 40th president.
The pageantry and patter of the Oval Office that came so naturally to Reagan and Bill Clinton haven’t come quite as easily to Obama, an electrifying campaign performer who is finally mastering the intimate, idiosyncratic language of the American presidency.
Again, Thrush doesn’t buy the new comparison hook, line and sinker, but still, it is the WH-favored comparison—“glib,” “bogus,” or otherwise. Ultimately, Obama is aligned with the two presidents that his aides have herded into his corner. Thrush writes:
Obama is internalizing a lesson that came as second nature to his two predecessors: A president who can’t make a consistent emotional connection with the people he leads is a president who can’t govern effectively.
Ultimately, Harris and VandeHei have done us a service, acknowledging the Beltway media’s inner leanings, the pervasive groupthink that leads to so much same-same, narrative-following, and often superficial reporting. And maybe they chose not to put themselves in the same basket as Halperin and ABC because they don’t yet consider Politico a part of the mainstream media. (Potentially a false humility given that Harris is co-moderating the first Republican primary debate with Brian Williams, and Politico is co-sponsoring.)
But the service would have been greater if Harris and VandeHei had looked as closely at themselves as they did at their surrounds.