Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Misoverestimating Barack Obama

Newsweek's Howard Fineman went on Laura Ingraham's show yesterday and just about admitted that Newsweek blew its coverage of the election. You can listen to the audio here and Newsbusters has the transcript. Newsweek ran cover story after cover story about how wonderful and special Barack Obama was. Hillary Clinton and John McCain couldn't catch a break, but the Obamas got the halo treatment. Laura pressed him on their slobbering coverage of Obama during the election and Fineman had no answer.
INGRAHAM: How is it though with all these smart people at Newsweek – I went around the block with Evan Thomas about this as well. How did you all think that a guy who basically went from the Harvard Law Review, to some community leafleting, organizing, whatever you want to call it, to a short stint, a few lectures about constitutional law at [the University of] Chicago, very short stopover in the state Senate, and a very short stopover in the U.S. Senate. How does that add up to experience to run the biggest economy and the biggest military in the world? And why wasn’t Newsweek, instead of doing these celebrified covers of Michelle and Barack as historic, and celebrity culture, and all this love-love-love-love-love, why wasn’t – Why weren’t those questions asked before this election took place? Because to me, those were the questions to ask. . It wasn’t about personality. It was about experience and outlook.

FINEMAN: Well, uh, first, I’ll plead nolo [contendere] on a lot of this. But –
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INGRAHAM: That’s what he did, in the U.S. Senate. He voted present. So you’re voting present for Newsweek.

FINEMAN: No, no. Part of the problem is, or part of the reason is that we – as political reporters, we become enamored with the mechanics of the campaign, and I would still insist that –
Ingraham saw right through the admire-your-mechanics trope:
INGRAHAM: You’re gonna do that if Paul Ryan is the nominee, for the Republicans? You’re gonna celebrify him? I don’t think so.

FINEMAN: No, no. Let me back up for a second. That was – Whatever you say about Barack Obama and David Axelrod in your diaries and everything --

INGRAHAM: Yeah.

FINEMAN – It was a brilliantly run campaign. And I have come to despair of the notion of the relationship between the quality and shrewdness of a campaign that someone runs and the kind of presidency that they have.
When Ingraham joked that Lady Gaga is good at branding, too, Fineman added; “We were mystified and mesmerized by the quality of the branding campaign that was Obama’s.”
So there is Howard Fineman admitting that he was totally deceived in how to approach the campaign. In fact, he comes right out and admits that he didn't realize how ideological Obama was at the expense of doing what was politically smart.
He consciously at the beginning set himself up as a kind of counterpoint to Reagan. Remember he said he admired Reagan and Hillary got all upset at him admiring Reagan? What Obama admired about Reagan was not his philosophy, or his program, but the fact that Reagan was an inflection point in history, was a big sea change in history. I believe Obama views himself in that way, and that’s why he went for the big health-care bill, and the big stimulus, and all the other big bills to make history, because he felt he would be the anti-Reagan. But I missed – I have to admit I miss half of what I cover when I’m out there. I thought Obama was shrewder than that, and wouldn’t use all of his political capital in the way he did, and it’s hurt him.
So much for using the political campaign's brilliance to predict political brilliance as a president.

I realize that no one reads Newsweek any more, but Howard Fineman is still out there writing his stuff and appearing on MSNBC to spread his clueless analysis. I predict that when Newsweek finally goes under, Fineman will find a job somewhere in the MSM. And this will be his calling card - he totally miscovered the election and misoverestimated Barack Obama. That makes him the perfect match for any job in the MSM.