MSM: THE ENEMY OR TRIVIAL?

John McQuaid makes a marvelously concise point about the different ways in which the last two presidents relate to the media. As John summarized it even more concisely in his Twitter feed, "Obama and Bush each see the establishment media agenda in conflict with his own. To Bush it's ideologically hostile; to Obama, trivial."

Like Bush, Obama appears to view the media agenda in fundamental conflict with his own. But now, the perceived difference isn’t ideological. It’s programmatic. Obama (correctly, I think) sees the press representing two things that are clear obstacles to his ambitious plans: official Washington and a trivia-obsessed media culture.

First, the official Washington view: There’s a certain, Broderesque way of doing things. Be centrist, bipartisan - especially if you’re a Democratic president. Listen to the conservative talking heads who dominate Sunday talk shows, who will advise you to be … conservative. This world, shaped by the rise of conservative media since the Reagan era, remains several steps behind where the country is, or is ready to be, on politics and policy.

Second, the media culture: The cable maw must be fed with transient panics. Feeding frenzies and micro-scandals dominate. They fuel the chat shows, opinion columns and blogs. These faux crises and dramas, which usually pass with little consequence, can knock a presidential agenda off-stride or even destroy it.

But treating it as trivial, rather than hostile, is the appropriate reaction. And as the media changes and scrambles to respond to the new environment, Obama can find ways to work around both the High Broderism and the culture of transient panics.

-- Mark Schmitt

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