I don’t think ‘risky’ means what the media thinks it means
Brave. Gutsy. Risky. Such terms have frequently been used by the media to describe decisions made by President Obama. The most notable instance of this was when Obama ordered the SEAL raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound last year. His loyal scribes in the mainstream media were tripping over themselves to heap praise on the president for taking such an enormous “risk.” It’s doubtful, however, that anyone outside the president’s most feverish supporters actually believes that ordering the raid was a difficult decision. Indeed, if the call was in fact so “gutsy,” there would be absolutely no need for Obama and his cheering section in the media to keep reminding us of this. But much like we’ve seen with the “economic recovery,” the media is hoping that if they just keep repeating their fantasy narrative long enough, people will stop believing their own lyin’ eyes, and instead defer to Obama’s version of reality.
Now the national media is at it again, desperately trying to portray Obama’s reversal on gay marriage as a super risky move: It could cost him religious Democratic voters; it could galvanize the GOP base and increase turnout for Romney; it could make the difference in a potentially close presidential race and ultimately cost Obama the election. Obama the brave and principled, putting his own political fortunes at great risk in order to stand up for what is right. Or so the narrative goes.
All of it, clearly nonsense. This isn’t to say that that Obama’s reversal doesn’t pose any risks. But it would have been far riskier for Obama to have not announced his support for gay marriage when he did.
No one ever believed that Obama was truly against gay marriage in the first place. As his own supporters were proud to proclaim, Obama was simply waiting for the right time to reverse his stance on gay marriage. But at the same time Obama began to realize that he no longer could maintain his whole “evolving positions” charade. The youth voting bloc that came out in droves in 2008 to support Obama had been drained of its enthusiasm, as tends to happen to those facing bleak prospects. Not only that, but after being abandoned by his supporters on Wall Street, Obama couldn’t afford to lose the financial contributions of the Hollywood industry, which was growing increasingly impatient with Obama’s delay in publicly supporting gay marriage. And of course, after Biden inadvertently showed Obama’s hand, even the otherwise loyal press corps could no longer indulge the president in his cynical charade. Far from taking a big risk, Obama had no choice but to publicly support gay marriage when he did.
Unsurprisingly, soon after announcing his support for gay marriage, Obama attended a Hollywood dinner, which nearly set the record for money raised at a single fundraiser. Of course, the media wasn’t going to let this inconvenient fact get in the way of their agenda. No matter how implausible it sounds, they will just keep repeating the line that Obama’s decision to reverse his stance on gay marriage was an incredibly risky move. To the media, looking foolish is a small price to pay for the honor of promoting the Obama administration’s talking points.
Unfortunately for Obama, the media’s narrative does not seem to be catching on. According to a New York Times/CBS poll, 76% of those surveyed believe that Obama made his announcement “mostly for political reasons.” As Americans have become more familiar with Obama’s style of leadership, they have come to understand that, contrary to the media narrative, if Obama believed reversing his stance on gay marriage would have been politically harmful, he simply would not have done so.
The irony of this all is that Obama has actually taken many risks during his presidency. When it comes to economic policy, he has been nothing short of reckless. But the media understands quite well that economic policy is the one area where the American people would rather not have a president running reckless liberal experiments. So they fix this problem by simply referring to these policies as safe and sensible decisions.
Sadly, for everyone, Obama reserves his biggest bets for taxpayers’ money. The perfect example is when he put down $800 billion on liberal pet projects, in an effort to keep unemployment under 8 percent. This gamble didn’t exactly work out, and, just like that, a country saddled with a badly struggling economy was another $800 billion in the hole. Seems pretty risky to me; to the media, not so much. In fact, if you were to believe the media, not making that bet would have been far riskier.
Obama’s risky economic policies are too numerous to mention, but with all of them a familiar pattern emerges. Obama calls for massive spending on programs with little chance of success, and the media frames it as a prudent and necessary decision. Then after the inevitable failures of these programs, they describe Obama as a poor victim of unlucky circumstances: the Greek crisis, bad weather or whatever else they can point their fingers at. It’s never that these were just plain ol’ risky moves that were almost certain to fail.
So for those not keeping track at home, the real risk, somehow, was when the president stated the obvious and announced his support for gay marriage. But dropping over a trillion dollars on financially unstable companies and liberal wish lists: What could possibly go wrong?
To be sure, no decision made by a president is entirely risk free, but as far as presidential decisions go, Obama ordering the raid on bin Laden and announcing his support for gay marriage were about as easy as they come. Still, it’s hard to fault Obama for trying to convince the American people that his easy calls were actually risky. After all, “path of least resistance” would hardly be a compelling campaign slogan. But it’s quite remarkable to watch the media so willingly play along. It’s not even enough for the media to laud Obama for his actions, as we have come to expect from them; they need to portray these decisions as unique contributions which could not have been carried out by anyone other than the courageous Obama. In other words, the media is telling us that we should all feel very lucky to have such a brave and principled president.
Mendy Finkel is a corporate attorney practicing in New York. He is a graduate of Columbia Law School.