Straight to the ‘Moon (But, For How Long?)

New presidents get A Honeymoon Period.

With peers around the world. With Congress. With the public. With the press (and “there’s nothing unjournalistic about that,” right, Chris Matthews?). Meaning, a stretch of time during which each of these groups will be more inclined to get along and go along with the new president as he settles in, giving him a chance to sip rum punches and bask in the fleeting warmth of good will or, if he’s so inclined, embark on a more active honeymoon of pushing as much of his agenda as possible before that good will sun sets.

How long will Obama’s honeymoon last? Will it be a long weekend in the Poconos? A two-week Caribbean cruise? A respite longer and more luxurious still? (Aren’t we all broke?)

No one knows. We’ll have to wait and see. In other words: let’s guess!

And, this being a journalism blog, let’s focus on the guesses, specifically, about the length of Obama’s media honeymoon (though there have been many guesses made about how long public good will, Republican good will, and global good will towards Obama might last, including the alarming pronouncement Sunday by MSNBC’s terrorism analyst, Evan Coleman, that “Barack Obama is going to have a really short honeymoon period at least as far as Al Qaeda goes.”)

But, about that media honeymoon.

Yesterday on MSNBC, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd explained under what circumstances she’ll be willing to chip in for an Obama honeymoon and how much (think: just for showing up and blank check):

JOHN HARWOOD: Do you think that Barack Obama is going to have a honeymoon, given the scale of the problems that he is inheriting? The difficulty that Republicans are in and the interest they are going to have in taking him down a notch? What do you think?

DOWD: Well, I know that conventional wisdom is that it is going to be really hard for him, but I think that Americans have felt so beleaguered. I mean in this election, Americans wanted to feel like Americans again…We want to be the leaders of the world. So I think he will get a lot of points if he even tries. President Bush bicycled his way through so many crises. He vacationed through the warnings about Osama bin Laden, he bicycled through Katrina, he didn’t see the economic crisis coming, didn’t see the Iraq insurgency and civil war coming though he was warned. So I think if a president is actually reading his CIA briefs that would be a great step in the right direction.

And, while it’s not clear that this was media-honeymoon-specific, Harwood offered his own two cents on MSNBC earlier yesterday:

TAMRAN HALL: Will he get a honeymoon? With two wars and what we are seeing on Wall Street?

HARWOOD: Well, sure. There’s a tremendous amount of good feeling associated with Barack Obama’s victory. The question is how much time does he have? Some period of weeks or months, but it’s not going to be years.

Please, can anyone be more specific?

Not Anne Kornblut of the Washington Post who, on MSNBC Friday, said:

In terms of a honeymoon, sure he’s going to have — we saw today at the press conference some light-hearted questions, he’s going to get laughter from the press corps for a little while at least. He’s also going to get pressed to making more specific answers to questions than he has in the first few days as president-elect.

“A little while at least?” That’s not what Judge Judy said on CNN Monday night to Larry King. No, the Judge sentenced Obama to a “long” media honeymoon:

KING: How long a honeymoon does he get?

JUDGE: I think he gets a long honeymoon. I think the media loves Barack Obama. I think that the print media, the electronic media love him and are prepared to cut him an awful lot of slack.

And yet last Friday, CNN’s Heidi Collins pronounced the honeymoon already come and gone. “If there was a honeymoon at all, it is over. President-Elect Obama is already being slammed by some conservatives as a divider and not a uniter,” going on to cite Things Said by Rush Limbaugh.

On Fox News Friday night, Gov. Mike Huckabee put an actual expiration date on Obama’s media honeymoon:

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN: …The media gives a little grace period after the election, but they can get mean, they can get tough…

HUCKABEE: And the media that loved [Obama] and was in the tank for him, they’ll turn on him probably sometime around February first. That’s the way it works. You have a short-lived honeymoon.

So, Obama’s got until the day before Groundhog Day to have his way with reporters. Give or take.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.