[Posted by Karl]
I try to avoid focusing on media bias, but when I see Ed Morrissey and others favorably citing the WaPo story on Obama’s housing policy failure, I must respectfully dissent. Consider the narrative-building at work in the WaPo piece:
The Obama effort fell short in part because the president and his senior advisers, after a series of internal debates, decided against more dramatic actions to help homeowners, worried that they would pose risks for taxpayers and the economy, according to numerous current and former officials. They consistently unveiled programs that underperformed, did little to reduce mortgage debts owed by ordinary Americans and rejected a get-tough approach with banks.
Not that there were easy answers. The administration faced the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression. Spending large amounts of taxpayer money to bail out some homeowners — but not necessarily their neighbors — carried huge political risks and faced opposition in Congress.
It is, coincidentally or not, strikingly similar to the narrative Ezra Klein spun a couple of weeks earlier in a piece on the failure of Obama’s stimulus plan. While formally a blog post, Klein’s piece runs with the length, original reporting and faux-neutral tone of anything else in the WaPo. The WaPo spin is precisely the one Team Obama wants put on their obvious and unavoidable failures: It Could Be Worse. They desperately want the narrative that the current economy was so bad that it could not be fixed by The One in just four years; he would have done more, but for the obstructionism of those evil wingnuts. Obama did not lose 3.3 million net jobs; he “saved” millions of jobs, according to the computer models that did not tell him how bad the economy was in the first place.
Contrast the sympathetic, nuanced apologia for Obama’s failures with the WaPo’s breathless, shoddy hit pieces on Rick Perry or Marco Rubio — possible GOP nominees for president or veep. (In turn, compare those hit pieces with the way the WaPo dismissed Obama’s longtime association the Rev. Jeremiah Wright as an attack on the black church, itself a smear of most black churchgoers). The WaPo’s partisan attacks of GOPers feeds the other half of the “It Could Be Worse” campaign — sure, Obama is a miserable failure, but his opponents are dumb, lying, racists.
Some on the right are giving the WaPo credit for reporting on Obama’s failures. I understand the impulse to encourage coverage that is not completely divorced from reality. But in this instance, everyone already knows that Obama’s stimulus and housing policies failed. As biased as the establishment media is, it could hardly stop reporting economic and housing statistics. Even if they had blacked out such coverage, everyone would still know Obama failed. In my city, I see the developers desperately trying to unload on their unsold condo conversions. When I talk to my Dad — who lives in an exurban/rural area — we talk about the longterm unsold houses and the crews the local banks are hiring to mow the lawns on their inventory of foreclosed homes. Most of us know someone whose mortgage is underwater. And so on, and so on. The WaPo is not speaking truth to power on these subjects; it’s spinning a pro-Obama narrative of how they think people should think about these subjects.