File this under Advice We Could Have Used Eight Nine Ten Years Ago. Barack Obama took a moment at his final press conference to share his thoughts on the Fourth Estate and its role in providing accountability to those in power. “You’re not supposed to be complimentary,” Obama intoned to the media that has been running hosannas about the past eight years as Inauguration Day draws near:
Pres. Obama to press: "You're not supposed to be complimentary. You're supposed to cast a critical eye on folks who hold enormous power." pic.twitter.com/sTKl34FlrQ
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 18, 2017
Ahem. Perhaps Obama could have used some practical examples of hagiographic coverage from his own experience, given the nature of media coverage. At the very least, Obama should have asked them to Google the phrase “scandal-free administration” from news organization. That’s a narrative that Obama’s White House pushed incessantly, as Bre Payton reminded everyone yesterday at The Free Beacon and Heat Street:
So. Much. Spin. It’s almost as if Obama realizes that his legacy — which is comprised largely of executive orders that can easily be undone under a new president — is toast. To suggest an enduring legacy his team wants folks to fixate on his “scandal-free” administration because President-elect Donald Trump has said he plans to tear up the Iran nuclear deal and will work with Congress to repeal Obama’s signature health care law, effectively erasing two of Obama’s largest “accomplishments.”
To his credit, Obama wasn’t caught having an extramarital affair with a White House intern, but that doesn’t mean he or his administration were free of scandal. The helpful folks over at Grabien have compiled a list of the Obama administration’s worst scandals and gaffes. So far there are 730 of them, but for the sake of space and time, I’m going to highlight five of the worst.
To be fair, the media provided some coverage of most of these, but a lot of that coverage was of the “have Republicans overreached” variety. The broad acceptance of this “scandal-free” narrative just provides another example — among many — of a media that often seemed more interested in defending Obama than “cast[ing] a critical eye” on someone who wielded enormous power, more often than not unilaterally.
However, it’s all but certain that the media will take Obama’s valedictory advice, now that a Republican will succeed him in the White House, and especially because that Republican is Donald Trump. Would Obama have offered this reminder if Hillary Clinton had won the election? That seems pretty doubtful, and even more doubtful that the media would have taken it to heart. Still, it serves as a good reminder to voters that they should always elect Republicans to the presidency in order to have a media that takes accountability seriously. The next few years should produce a Golden Age of Media, in that respect.
Update: Let’s not forget this example …