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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Newsweek, Misjudging Obama From the Start



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Over at Media Blog, Primary Event, and Contentions, they’re discussing the Newsweek cover image that depicts Michele Bachmann looking wide-eyed and nutty.

I particularly liked this assessment from Tom Hoopes, comparing the Newsweek covers for various Democrat and GOP political figures in recent years, side-by-side.

The use of the Newsweek cover as a vehicle for the preferred DNC narrative is nothing new, of course.  I believe the first time the magazine put Obama on its cover was back in December 2004, before he even took office in the Senate, touting him as “a rising star who wants to get beyond blue vs. red” and who, upon beating Alan Keyes in a heavily Democrat state, somehow represented “Purple” America.

From the press release:

In its annual “Who’s Next” year-end double issue, Newsweek names those people who will be making news in the months and years ahead. Newly elected Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, on the cover of the December 27 issue (on newsstands Monday, December 20), is featured not only because he will inevitably make most shortlists for vice president in 2008, but also because he has the “star power” to work with the GOP on bridging Red-Blue divisions and getting some things done for the country… Obama is fully prepared to step into a leadership role for the Democratic Party, reports Senior Editor Jonathan Alter. Obama stops short of calling for a “religious left” to counter the political power of the religious right, but he wants the party to reconnect to what he sees as its roots in a moral imperative: “This shouldn’t be hard to do. Martin Luther King did it. The abolitionists did it. Dorothy Day [of the Catholic Workers] did it. Most of the reform movements that have changed this country have been grounded in religious models. We don’t have to start from scratch.” The task now, Obama says, is for Democrats to “reclaim and reassert in very explicit language that our best ideas rise out of communal values,” a process that Obama began in his now famous keynote speech at the Democratic convention in July.

While Obama’s “star power” is undeniable and he no doubt “made news” in the months and years that followed, his record of working with Republicans and “bridging” red-blue divisions turned out to be awfully thin. Why Newsweek would think that “star power” would translate to an ability to build cooperation and compromise is unclear, but I guess their misjudgment on that score is no worse than many others in their assessment of Obama through the 2008 election.

Also mentioned as a “Next” person in that issue:

* Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the third-ranking Republican in a majority soon to expand to 55 members and a point man on hot-button issues ranging from gay marriage to Social Security. Santorum’s combatively devout approach is one Republicans are hoping will expand their control in the decade ahead by winning over traditional Catholics in Great Lakes states and Hispanic voters everywhere-and one Santorum has told friends he thinks can propel him to the presidency someday.

The paths of Santorum and Obama have…  diverged since that moment.


Tags: Barack Obama , Michele Bachmann , Rick Santorum


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