Hey Barack Obama: you've just passed a $789 billion stimulus bill that contains money for infrastructure, helps states meet the some of the crushing deficits they face and provides a tax cut in pay checks for millions of Americans. What are you going to do now?
Well, unlike the Super Bowl MVP, the president is not going to Disney Land. But there's a chance he may wonder whether he's in Fantasy Land anyway, as he gets kicked from the left
and the right
Welcome to that peculiar Washington disease called "Inside the Beltway Bias."
While governors across the country -- including many with an "R" after their names
-- are quietly counting how to spend the federal cash infusion to avoid layoffs and put people back to work, the media wisemen and women are seeking out the naysavers who think Obama did too much or too little.
The Washington press corps sees just three Republican votes and declares the Obama plan a failure because it did not achieve bipartisan support. That is until they picked up the phone and called people like Florida Gov. Charlie Crist -- last seen on the national stage standing next to his presidential candidate, John McCain.
“It really is a matter of perspective,” Mr. Crist said in an interview. “As a governor, the pragmatism that you have to exercise because of the constitutional obligation to balance your budget is a very compelling pull” generally.
Then there's the other side of the aisle. Here Washington insiders talk to other Washington insiders and come up with a different view of the stimulus package.
Liberal Democrats recognize the package's scale and accomplishment, and they have defended it against Republican attacks. But they also wonder whether Obama could have used the opportunity of a large congressional majority and a moment of economic emergency to pass a bigger package, with a better chance of boosting the economy and with more of his priorities intact.
Until they stumble upon someone who entered the Beltway from beyond:
"We can't suddenly say, 'Change has come,' and just talk to one another and add more demands. We have to be out there explaining in the most elementary ways why something like universal health care is good for America," said Theda Skocpol, a Harvard University political scientist, addressing a conference of left-leaning groups in Washington last week.
She added: "It isn't going to happen in one week, and it isn't going to happen with one bill, with Olympia Snowe telling us what to do. It's going to be a long slog."
I was taught as a young reporter to get out and talk to real people. Has that message changed so drastically since my young days?
While a Harvard professor may not be the ideal example, it still proves the point that there are shades of gray to be found beyond the black and white of the people you cover on a daily basis.
I have argued long and hard that liberal media bias is a myth. Reporters have a bias against those in power and look to challenge them in the best sense of the old line that journalists are supposed to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
But journalist also have a tendency to wear blinders and see only what is in their immediate field of vision. Political reporters in particular don't spend a lot of time outside their comfort zones. I know that first hand.
So I have a "stimulus" suggestion for the Washington press corps: Stop pontificating on the Sunday yak shows, get off your butts and get out there and see what life is like in the states that will receive the stimulus money.
Find out if the people who voted for the Republican House members agree with their decisions -- or like the fact they will get a tax break in their pay checks (assuming they still have jobs after the havoc wreaked by the Wall Street moguls who benefited from Bush-era tax cuts).
The media is facing its own hard times. Putting an end to Fantasy Land reporting would be a nice way to restore some credibility and maybe win back a few readers.
Labels: Barack Obama, journalism, Republicans, stimulus