Posted by: eratigan | July 27, 2009

Love triangle: Obama, the media and the rest of US

Peter Baker wrote a White House Memo for the New York Times last week analyzing the relationship between Obama and the media. His main critique was that though Obama complains bitterly about the way the news cycle works, he has outdone Clinton and George W. Bush in news appearances (interviews, conferences) by similar points in their presidency.

It’s an interesting point, and “some say” in the article that the overexposure may hurt Obama’s mystique. Others claim he knows exactly what he’s doing–a master media manipulator.

Baker suggests the “after six months in office, perhaps no other president has been more attuned to, or done more to dominate , the news cycle he disparages.”

"King of Cool" or "Sultan of Spin"?

"King of Cool" or "Sultan of Spin"?

But I can think of one:


I’ve heard a lot of comparisons between FDR’s and Obama’s economic plans, parallels drawn between the times in which they came to power, but I have yet to read of true analysis of their relationships with the media. The press adored FDR, which is why he was never photographed in a wheelchair, why he would have regular meetings with the White House Press Corps in his office, perhaps why some of his more disastrous plans weren’t scrutinized as they should have been. Later, FDR circumvented the press by speaking directly to the people (all presidents since have done the same).

I worry that Obama’s relationship with the press specifically and media generally may turn into the same. He’s made a point of Speaking Straight to the American People with press conferences, radio/television appearances, and comment features on his blog. True, the White House Blog is no Fireside Chat, but it’s a start.


  1. Good post – indeed there are similarities not only between Obama and FDR’s manipulation of the press, but also Reagan and Nixon who also attempted to circumvent the media and talk directly to the people.

    However FDR’s honeymoon with the press did not last too long. Newspapers were soon calling him a dictator and the “greatest scourge a free people ever suffered… [who should]boldly declare the democracy is dead” (Goldwater Journal). Hearst’s newspapers called his program communism while Robert McCormick, owner of the Chicago Tribune, compared him to Hitler. He even tried to erase him from memory by mentioning FDR only once in his newspaper for the entire month of October 1936, an election year!

    There have been similar criticisms of Obama’s economic plans but not to the same extent…yet.

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