Buenos Aires dispatch: Listening to the news

I’m taking a break from the usual tourist activities of sightseeing, tango dancing and shoe shopping to see how the local stations are covering the US midterm elections.

For the most part, they are fairly well informed when it comes to the reasons for voter discontent in terms of taxes and government spending. However, the general tone is that the reasons are for the most part incomprehensible: who wouldn’t want to have a huge cradle-to-grave government-run system, no matter how much it costs or whether it bankrupts the country?

One can understand the puzzlement in the local media; however, the most egregious coverage comes from CNN en Español, whose guest talking head referred repeatedly to the Tea Party as “lunatics” and “eccentrics”. CNN en Español segues effortlessly from that news into a report on the EU crisis, where Ireland, Spain and Portugal may be going the way of Greece – without bothering to ask if uncontrolled spending is wise in the first place. Likewise with coverage of the French strikes: the emphasis is on how unfair it is to raise the retirement age by two years, not on why must Sarko take such an unpopular (and disruptive) measure.

The news coverage generally refers to Obama in favorable terms, ignoring the disenchantment of the US electorate on his approach even if one doesn’t look at the economy. Betsy has an excellent post on the voters’ attitudes:

If people had had faith that the Democrats’ measures on the economy were going to lead to economic growth, Democratic losses today would still happen, but they wouldn’t be in the numbers we’re likely to see tonight. Gallup wouldn’t be showing the biggest Republican lead among likely voters in its polling history.

To test whether it’s all about the unemployment numbers, test a contrafactual history. What if Obama had governed like his rhetoric in 2004? What if he’d pulled in Republicans from the first in crafting the stimulus bill instead of telling them right away “I won” and then excluding their ideas from the table? Even if they had passed a similar stimulus bill but added in just enough of Republican ideas to gain some Republican votes, it wouldn’t have seen as just a partisan porkfest stuffed full of measures pulled from the liberal wishlist they’d been keeping in a drawer for just such an occasion. And then, what if the Democrats had responded differently to Scott Brown’s victory earlier this year?

Betsy links to Dorothy Rabinowitz’s article,
Why Obama Is No Roosevelt
Roosevelt: ‘Your government has unmistakable confidence in your ability to hear the worst without flinching and losing heart.’ Obama: We don’t ‘always think clearly when we’re scared.’

It is impossible to imagine what might have been the effect if the current president, who is regularly compared to FDR—always a source of amazement—had tried anything like a detailed address explaining, say, the new health-care bill. Though this would have required knowledge of what was actually in the bill (a likely problem) and a readiness to share that news (an even greater one).

Despite the ongoing work of legions grinding out endless new and improved proofs that FDR was a despoiler of democracy and our economic system, it is worth remembering the reason virtually all serious historians rank him among the top three of our greatest presidents.

CNN en Español and several of the 24/7 news channels constantly refer to Obama as “Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama.”

Unfortunately for Obama, greatness must be earned.

US mid-term elections 2010: Hillary Clinton stays away from mid-term elections
Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, will be several thousand miles away from American shores on election day in a move some are interpreting as a deliberate way of literally distancing herself from the result.

How far away? Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia.


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