Revealed: Obama Thought Palin’s ‘Death Panels’ Too ‘Absurd’ To Address


President Obama and the media is getting The New Yorker treatment this week. Obama is about to celebrate his first year as President. And boy has it been a year. That intensity that has surrounded his first year, while partly the result of events that followed Obama to the Oval Office, is also the result of media coverage that only increased after his inauguration.

In this week’s issue Ken Auletta takes a look at the relationship between Obama and the press (a relationship that has perhaps been subjected to more scrutiny in the last two years than even that of Brangelina) but also explores how the sea change that the media industry itself has undergone (enter Twitter, etc.) combined with the nation’s fascination with Obama may have resulted in a different sort of leadership from Obama. Saya Auletta:

“The news cycle is getting shorter—to the point that there is no pause, only the constancy of the Web and the endless argument of cable. This creates pressure to entertain or perish, which has fed the press’s dominant bias: not pro-liberal or pro-conservative but pro-conflict.”

Auletta talks to all the big wigs for the piece: Chuck Todd, Jake Tapper, David Axelrod, Peter Baker, Anita Dunn, Rahm Emanuel, etc. Alas, the article itself is behind a paywall, but here are a few highlights. This remark from David Axelrod who was a political journalist himself before becoming and adviser feels particularly apt (for all media not just the political sphere):

“There are some really good journalists there, really superb ones. But the volume of material they have to produce just doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for reflection.”

That is putting it mildly. NBC’s Chuck Todd notes “we’re all wire-service reporters now” (also known as ‘the Twitter effect’). There’s also this nugget regarding Mike Allen of Politico, who more than anyone has picked up where Mark Halperin left off at The Note, and is be driving this newly accelerated news cycle.

While most newspapers have drastically curtailed their travel budgets, there has been a Politico reporter on nearly every one of Obama’s domestic and overseas trips. Mike Allen, Politico’s chief White House correspondent, has become one of Washington’s most influential journalists. By seven each morning, Allen, a former correspondent for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Time, posts ‘Playbook,’ his account of what he thinks the major news stories of the day will be. … To insure that the White House gets a shot at featuring its version of what’s important, officials e-mail and telephone Allen starting at 5 A.M.

Including apparently Dick Cheney. Interestingly, there’s also an admission that one of the reason’s Sarah Palin’s ‘death panel” remark was able to take hold is that the White House thought it too idiotic to deal with. One imagines they won’t be making that same mistake going forward.

When Sarah Palin claimed that the Democratic health-care bill would institute “death panels” to determine who received care, “we thought it was absurd,” [Dan] Pfeiffer says, “and there was a perhaps naïve view on our part that, if a major political figure says something that is entirely untrue and ridiculous, the press would treat it as untrue and ridiculous.”

If you a subscriber you can read the whole article here. If you’re not, well then, the newsstand awaits!


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