The Boston Phoenix’s Adam Reilly weighs in with a well-timed piece on the Republican meme that Barack Obama is too “presumptuous” to be president — and on the media’s willingness to play along.
It appears that all of this is being brought to a head right now. At the moment, it’s looking like this year’s version of Al Gore’s lies that weren’t, or of John Kerry’s flip-flopping and failure to respond adequately to the Swift Boat attacks.
You can talk about the liberal media all you want, and there’s no doubt that most mainstream journalists are liberals. But there’s also no doubt that there’s a tendency among nominally liberal journalists, especially opinion-mongers, to make their bones by mocking liberal politicians.
Exhibit A is Dana Milbank’s piece in Wednesday’s Washington Post, which begins, “Barack Obama has long been his party’s presumptive nominee. Now he’s becoming its presumptuous nominee.” That might have been the moment when this particular line of attack finally jumped the shark. Or perhaps not.
Adam rushes in where others have feared to tread, writing that criticism of Obama as being narcissistic and presumptuous is, among other things, “a crafty way of playing the race card — of essentially calling Obama an uppity black man without actually using those words.” Exactly. Show me someone who’s won a major-party presidential nomination and I’ll show you someone who’s presumptuous. But some of Obama’s detractors sound like they’re ready to walk right up to the brink of suggesting that, well, he just doesn’t know his place.
(Disclosures: Adam’s a friend, he cites Media Nation and we talked through some of this while he was doing his reporting.)
Obama’s not perfect. As is the case with many ambitious people (like, for instance, John McCain), he has an unattractive tendency to use people and move on. His longstanding association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright remains troubling, and you can be sure we’ll be hearing more about it.
But by hitting him with the Republican Party’s sneering talking points, the media are not just doing the opposition’s dirty work. They’re flirting with something quite a bit uglier as well.