Barack Obama is out promoting his new book through puff-piece media interviews, a reminder of how much he got away with as president and the fact that he couldn’t handle the level of scrutiny thrown at his successor, Donald Trump.
Watching media interviews with Obama while he promotes his new book ‘A Promised Land,’ you’d think he was a movie star talking up a film project, rather than the former commander-in-chief.
From playing “wastepaper basketball” with late night host Stephen Colbert to fielding softball questions about what Trump’s ascension to political power “says” about the US, Obama has been given a platform time and time-again to paint himself as a positive leader in contrast to Trump’s brash style.
The truth is Obama would never have made it through his eight years if he were forced to face the media scrutiny that Trump faces. Say what you will about Trump’s typo-laden, early morning tweets and his combative interactions with journalists, but he is arguably the most accessible president in US history. He may call his media critics “fake news,” but he also does this in the open and faces them head-on.
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Obama has enjoyed – and continues to enjoy – a love affair with the mainstream media that’s allowed him to not only paint a false narrative about his own presidency, but also to avoid pesky questioning about his failings.
The former president has, for instance, been used as a talking head in interviews to give his ‘expert’ advice on Trump’s 2016 victory and his continued popularity with a large portion of the US (even losing to Biden, he still gained millions of votes in 2020).
On Hispanics who voted for the president, Obama dismissed them as “evangelical” voters who weigh certain issues as more important than others.
“The fact that Trump says racist things about Mexicans or puts detainees, undocumented workers, in cages, they think that’s less important than the fact that he supports their views on gay marriage or abortion,” he told ‘The Breakfast Club’ radio show this week.
Following a statement like this, one might be inclined to ask Obama about these “cages” being built and utilized during his administration, or ask him what he believes Trump’s views on gay marriage and abortion actually are. While the current president has said he’s for “traditional marriage” in the past, he also technically entered office in approval of gay marriage. Obama, on the other hand, did not endorse the idea until 2012, years into his presidency.
There were no such follow-up questions. Obama was allowed to paint the narrative where he is the good liberal battling it out with hate-mongers like Trump and his religious supporters wearing blinders.
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The former president has also been given plenty of opportunities to dissect the state of the media today and Trump’s relationship with it.
In an interview with The Atlantic, Obama lamented that there is no common narrative anymore, but rather separate narratives that present ‘alternate facts’ based on the same story to feed into different audiences.
“I think it is the single biggest threat to our democracy,” he said. “I think Donald Trump is a creature of this, but he did not create it. He may be an accelerant of it, but it preceded him and will outlast him. I am deeply troubled by how we address it.”
Perhaps Obama should be asked about how he “addressed” it during his presidency. He not only called Fox News, one of the outlets most critical of him, “destructive” during his time in office, but also used the 1917 Espionage Act to prosecute more people for leaking sensitive information than all other previous administrations combined.
His Justice Department seized the records of 20 Associated Press office phone lines and reporters’ numbers without notice, claiming it was part of a larger investigation into disclosure of information about a terrorist plot. It was just one of many times Obama was accused by critics of infringing on press freedoms. As negative as Trump is about the media, Obama was a closed-off president, with an administration incredibly combative with the press behind the scenes.
Does he get asked about the contrast of these actions with his words now about press freedom? Of course not. Just like when he was president, the majority of the media simply let him speak and they do not question. They’re more concerned about mean tweets.
Obama has remained relatively unscathed by his actions as president and controversies surrounding him and his inner circle – Joe Biden, anyone? – because the press treats him like a celebrity as opposed to a politician. Ironically, Trump, a man who built a fortune off of being a celebrity, is treated more as a politician by the press than his predecessor.
“I just want to take a moment to drink you in for just a moment, because I’m having to get used to looking at a president again,” Colbert told Obama this week in an embarrassing, beaming interview.
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If Colbert, a liberal talking head who poses as a comedian, really cared so deeply about the office of the presidency, he could have asked Obama about his empty promises to end the wars in the Middle East versus his actual war-hawk actions as president. He could have asked him about Guantanamo Bay, Operation Fast and Furious, accusations that Joe Biden used his office to take part in his son Hunter’s international business dealings, or one of a million other deeds that put his eight years in the Oval Office in a bad light.
Instead, he asks him how horrible Trump is and gives him time to sell his friendly demeanor to an audience still convinced he was a good president.
Obama’s press tour is a reminder of the failure of the media during his eight years in office. While you will still hear unproven claims based on anonymous reports about Trump calling deceased soldiers “losers” or Russia putting bounties on US soldiers’ heads, you will not hear a peep about Obama’s controversies. The media continues to be in overdrive in their bid to sell him as a positive, shining example of American leadership. By doing this, they create a contrast with the current president, which backs up their questionable reporting on him while he’s been in office.
Bottom line? Don’t trust the media. Not when it comes to Trump, and definitely not when it comes to their favorite celebrity: Obama.
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