Time, Newsweek Bury Keystone
Energy has become a hot button election issue. President Obama’s State of the Union address and his decision to reject TransCanada’s application to build the Keystone pipeline crystallized the fact. The language of the GOP presidential candidates post-Keystone was suitably pithy. Gingrich intoned it “a stunningly stupid thing to do”; Romney cited the move as “shocking” and “revealing”. But just as the GOP candidate race is turning into a drawn out war of attrition, the mainstream media mood music has changed.
Over recent months the president’s approval ratings have been low. Not surprising given the administration’s lack of progress impact the national debt and job creation. So the president took a calculated gamble over Keystone. Not wanting to alienate his significant environmentalist support base, he believes the decision will have little traction with key independent voters. As the political fall-out from Keystone continues apace in the more overt Liberal and Conservative media, high-profile elements of the alleged ‘mainstream’ media may have chosen this moment to play a hand for the re-election of the president.
On the very week Gingrich surprised Romney with a clear victory in South Carolina – a mega national news development in the GOP presidential race – Time and Newsweek magazine both chose to run statesman-like cover stories on an entirely different candidate … President Obama.
Time’s “Obama’s World” front cover showed a thoughtful Commander-in-Chief leader in the Oval Office apparently weighing the great affairs of state. Inside the actual story was entitled “The Strategist”. You know the sort of thing, pretty much how every CEO would like to have his PR team depict him in the company annual report. Fareed Zakaria’s piece focuses exclusively on President Obama’s foreign policy record, arguably considered more successful than his combined domestic policies. Zakaria’s whole point is that Obama’s successful global policies have been overlooked as foreign policy has been largely omitted from the GOP debates. Only one problem with that, it wasn’t. Whatever debates Zakaria was watching, foreign policy came up continually in the Republican primaries. Remember Ron Paul’s 9/11 observations?
Newsweek went one better. They hired a self-proclaimed “conservative-minded independent”, Andrew Sullivan, to make the case that Obama’s critics are failing to see “How Obama’s Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics”, again implying a strategic mind on the case. You might be scratching your head at how anyone could put a positive spin on the running up of a $15 trillion national debt and an unemployment level doggedly sticking around 9 percent; especially, at a time when the newly reinvigorated national energy industry is desperate for drilling crews, drilling licenses, shale drilling development expansion and, oh yes, to build mega-pipeline projects. But Sullivan tried his best. For him the presidential Plan A is, apparently, working. It just takes longer than a presidential term to see any real benefits. More prosaically, you might wonder at how Obama’s failure to lay out the nature of the “long game” – as when he simply refused to come up with a national Budget for Congress last year – represents a “smart” move when he could easily be out of the game altogether come November.
Indeed, letting voters in on the strategy behind the “long game”, especially when it comes to energy security and the U.S. domestic gas and oil renaissance, might be a good PR move. Yet while domestic fossil fuels patently could empower the ailing economy Sullivan finds no room to deal with it. He does, however, find a surprising amount of space for the issue of “gays in the military”; a subject for which Sullivan, for personal reasons, seems to find space in many of his articles. Does Sullivan really think the issue outranks energy in an article over key strategy? Or could it have something to do with the controversial national criticism of the “strategist” over Keystone.
The point being, when it comes to both the cited issues of Time and Newsweek the reader will struggle to read any news or analysis of consequence at a time when the GOP presidential race is producing hot news on a daily basis.
We have yet to see whether the rest of the mainstream media takes its lead from Time and Newsweek in the coming weeks. But the editorial focus of these two journals look to have been triggered by the growing liberal left opinion that a second-term Obama presidency has recently become a real prospect primed by two things: the overt lack of enthusiasm for any particular GOP candidate and Obama’s perceived improving odds if his opponent becomes the one they would most prefer: Newt Gingrich. What better time for a ‘closet’ allegedly mainstream/independent media publications to wade in their support?
According to a new poll conducted by The Hill, the response from Republicans and Democrats has been predictable. However, there are fewer Democrats who agree with the President’s decision than there are Republicans who disagree with it. Fiscally conservative democrats clearly have an increasing problem with some of Obama’s key economic decision. Obama is no Clintonian pragmatist. Obama has made no obvious centrist moves. Polls consistently reveal he’s been losing the independent voters. The Hill poll suggests it is not just conservatives who are not getting Obama’s “long game” tactics, reports that more than half of the ‘centrists’ likely to vote also disagree with the president’s Keystone decision; a decision that has certainly set in stone the tone of the run-in to the election.
Above all, for Americans, the Keystone decision reflects what is at stake for the economy in November. It exemplifies Obama’s over-indulgence of the ideological EPA and environmental lobbies, at the expense of re-prioritizing his administration’s anti-fossil fuel policies – a “short game” strategy that derails any chance of early economic progress. Even more galling is Obama’s recent attempt to take credit – as his State of the Union address confirmed further – for the recent upsurge in domestic fossil fuel production which is currently angering industry leaders.
Time and Newsweek may have opted to shift their chief news focus away from the GOP and bury the Keystone decision as fast as possible, but the only question that will matter come November is: will the public buy it?