Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Press: As if media bias weren't troublesome enough, the ascent of President Obama's top strategist to a plum job at NBC creates an even bigger issue: that of the political establishment becoming the press. Where does it end?
In a way, the hiring of David Axelrod as "senior political analyst" providing commentary at NBC seems like a fool's errand from a business standpoint.
After all, the White House senior adviser has pretty much been giving NBC and other big media outlets commentary for free during the Obama administration, if the slavish pro-Obama media bias, as well as secretive media-political collaborations such as the "JournoList" listserv are any indication.
But we doubt this is really about Axelrod's "keen insights into the political process" or however the public relations department intends to market it.
It's a payoff, a reward for past access, and a one-hand-washes-other act that marks the increasingly symbiotic relationship between the political establishment and the supposedly free and independent press.
Past presidential press secretaries such as Robert Gibbs and George Stephanopoulos have landed similar jobs, but Axelrod's ascent takes it to a higher level.
Axelrod, remember, isn't just any White House official, but the ultimate political insider, the fixer whose wizardry created Obama. He cooked up the defining "Hope" and "Change" slogans, and the Obama "narrative," enabling a man with far-left ideas to reach the White House. With no Axelrod, there'd be no President Obama.
It's a bad development because even though Axelrod is supposedly giving commentary, the ugly fact is that commentary effectively becomes the news for much of the electorate in the current era.
What's more, Team Obama has declared it has no intention of dismantling its campaign apparatus post re-election. Put Axelrod in the catbird seat at a news outlet and the "narrative" continues. Combine that with Team Obama's masterful manipulation of journalists, its command of social media, and an ugly picture emerges of a press indistinguishable from the political establishment.
This has happened in banana republics, but never in a Western democracy. Already it's making old-school journalists who value news gathering over politics, such as the New York Times' Roger Cohen, ABC's Ann Compton and the Washington Post's David Ignatius, uncomfortable. The one thing that will stop it is a press that won't cooperate. So where is that press?