While the Bush administration’s war on terror was covered in overwhelmingly negative tones on television, failures of the Obama administration were covered as tragic events that somehow shouldn’t reflect too much on the president or his appointees. Network anchors and reporters often changed the subject of controversy.
The mass shooting at Fort Hood on November 5, 2009, with 13 killed and 30 wounded by an Army psychiatrist and Islamic extremist, drew more concern for American prejudice than for Obama ineptitude. ABC’s Martha Raddatz offered this summary: “As for the suspect, Nidal Hasan, as one officer’s wife told me, ‘I wish his name was Smith.’” Diane Sawyer repeated the Raddatz line on Good Morning America the next day. Sadly, that was better than CBS or NBC, which utterly avoided the name of the Muslim assailant on the first night.
On the next evening, ABC made sure Americans were “educated” about prejudice. Bill Weir reported: “The Pentagon has made a real concerted effort to create a military that is culturally sensitive and religiously tolerant, but Muslims in uniform today face a challenge not seen since Japanese-Americans fought in World War II. They taste suspicion from some fellow soldiers who question their loyalty and resentment from fellow Muslims opposed to both American wars.”
By Sunday, CBS Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer just wanted to forget about the issue of Islamic extremists finding religious justifications for killing our military. All religions have their murderers: “It’s looking more and more like he was just, sort of, a religious nut. And you know, Islam doesn’t have a majority – the Christian religion has its full, you know, full helping of nuts, too.”
When CBS’s Harry Smith turned to an Obama administration official for answers, he asked if the problem was that we have too many wars going on: “How disturbing is it to you that it looks like various agencies failed to connect the dots on Major Hasan?...We know from the beginning of the Iraq war, the escalation in number of cases of post-traumatic stress disorder. The other fact is, is that the more people go back to these fields, these theaters of war, either in Iraq or Afghanistan, it multiplies the incidence of these kinds of things occurring.”
Less than two months later, only ineptitude prevented Nigerian extremist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from exploding a suicide bomb on a Northwest Airlines flight just before landing in Detroit on Christmas Day. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano strangely claimed “the system worked,” but the media were again playing defense.
On January 6, 2010, CBS Early Show co-host Maggie Rodriguez pressed Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) to stop complaining about Obama: “Congressman, here you are a Republican talking about everything that’s wrong and everything that went wrong. I want to read to you from today’s New York Times. Tom Kean, who was the co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission said quote, ‘we should dismiss the partisan bickering over the security failures over this issue. Both parties have presided over security failures and successes.’ Do you agree and do you say to your colleagues let’s try to support the President here and get to the bottom of the real issue?”
According to the media elite, the president wasn’t inept. He was merely failed by intelligence agencies. This wasn’t a working excuse for President Bush. But Obama was a Democrat, and could be lovingly connected to John F. Kennedy. On ABC’s Good Morning America, investigative reporter Brian Ross explained: “Like another young President almost 50 years ago, Barack Obama found the so-called intelligence professionals, the veterans, the old hands, failed him and failed the country. And as John Kennedy did when the CIA blew an invasion of Cuba in 1961, President Obama took responsibility for the failure to stop and spot the underwear bomber.”
ABC encouraged the concept that the president could gain popularity, not lose it, for the failed attack. Anchor Diane Sawyer asserted: “I have to say, ‘the buck stops here.’ It’s an echo of another young President in another time.” George Stephanopoulos added: “John Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs. Huge intelligence failures at the Bay of Pigs. The President took responsibility, his popularity shot up. The White House is calculating with the President taking personal responsibility, they can put this behind them.”
On May 1, 2010, there was another failed terrorist attack by another Islamic radical named Faisal Shahzad, who attempted to blow up Times Square in New York City with explosives parked in an SUV. Again, the networks somehow saw the story as disconnected from the Obama administration’s war on terrorism. They even tried to suggest the comforts of America should have persuaded Shahzad against his violent intentions.
On the May 4 World News, Chris Cuomo asked “Why did someone, with apparently so much to live for, simply decide to throw it all away? Faisal Shahzad seemed to be living the American dream. Wife, two kids, nice house in the suburbs, an immigrant from Pakistan bettering himself through education and hard work....Shahzad would go on to earn a BS and MBA at the University of Bridgeport. Even his signature seems to suggest optimism – it appears a heart is dotting the ‘i’ in Faisal....”
On the May 5 CBS Evening News, Bob Orr reported: “Investigators say a quest for revenge seems to have played some role, but personal financial pressures may also have pushed Shahzad to act. He became a U.S. citizen just a year ago, but he has not realized any American dream. He quit his job, lost his house, and was separated from his family.”
ABC’s Barbara Walters later spoke for many journalists when U.S. Navy SEALS killed Osama bin Laden. Obama was the hero: “President Bush tried, President Clinton tried, but Barack Obama was the one who had the courage and the guts and the coolness, and took that chance. Had this not worked out, he would have gotten all the blame. It was enormously, enormously courageous.”
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