The Obama effect

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“Could there be something to all the talk of an Obama effect, after all? A stealth effect, perhaps?”




So asked Helene Cooper, the New York Times‘ diplomatic correspondent in a news analysis of the massive anti-regime protests in Iran published in Sunday’s Times.




It took US President Barack Obama eight days to issue a clear statement of support for the millions of pro-freedom demonstrators throughout Iran risking their lives to oppose the tyranny of the mullahs. And after eight days of vacillating and hedging his bets and so effectively supporting Iranian dictator Ali Khamenei against the multitudes rallying in the streets, Obama’s much awaited statement was not particularly forceful.




He offered no American support of any kind for the protesters. Indeed, it is hard to say that in making his statement, the American president was speaking primarily as an American.




He warned the likes of Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose goons are currently under orders to beat, arrest and murder protesters, that “the world is watching… If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.”




According to several prominent Western bloggers with direct ties to the protesters, Obama’s statement left the Iranians underwhelmed and angry.




But as Cooper sees it, the protesters owe their ability to oppose the regime that just stole their votes and has trampled their basic human rights for 30 years to Obama and the so-called “Obama effect.” Offering no evidence for her thesis, and ignoring a public record filled with evidence to the contrary, Cooper claims that it is due to Obama’s willingness to accept the legitimacy of Iran’s clerical tyranny that the protesters feel emboldened to oppose their regime. If it hadn’t been for Obama, and his embrace of appeasement as his central guiding principle for contending with the likes of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, as far as Cooper is concerned, the people on the streets would never have come out to protest.




By this thinking, America is so despised by the Iranians that the only way they will make a move against their regime is if they believe that America is allied with their regime. So by this line of reasoning, the only way the US can lead is by negative example – which the world in its wisdom will reject.




While Cooper’s analysis gives no evidence that Obama’s policies toward the ayatollahs had any impact on the tumultuous events now sweeping through Iran, it does make clear that the so-called Obama effect is a real phenomenon. It just isn’t the phenomenon she claims it is.




THE REAL OBAMA effect on world affairs relates to the US media’s unprecedented willingness to abandon the basic responsibilities of a free press in favor of acting as propagandists for the president. From Cooper – who pretends that Obama’s unreciprocated open hand to the mullahs is what empowered the protesters – to Newsweek editor Evan Thomas who referred to Obama earlier this month as a “sort of God,” without a hint of irony, the US media have mobilized to serve the needs of the president.




It is hard to think of an example in US history in which the media organs of the world’s most important democracy so openly sacrificed the most basic responsibilities of news gatherers to act as shills for the chief executive. Franklin Delano Roosevelt enjoyed adoring media attention, but he also faced media pressures that compelled him to take actions he did not favor. The same was the case with John F. Kennedy.




Today the mainstream US media exert no such pressures on Obama. Earlier this month NBC’s nightly news anchorman Brian Williams bowed to Obama when he bid him good night at the White House.




On Wednesday ABC News will devote an entire day of programming to advancing Obama’s controversial plan to nationalize health care. Its two prime time news shows will be broadcast from White House. Good Morning America will feature an interview with Obama, and ABC’s other three flagship shows will dedicate special programming to his health care reform program.




On the other hand, ABC has refused Republican requests for a right of reply to Obama’s positions. The network has also refused to sell commercial advertising time to Republicans and other Obama opponents to offer their dissenting opinions to his plans.




This media behavior has been noted by the likes of Fox News and the handful of other US news outlets that are not in the tank for Obama. But the repercussions of the Obama effect on US politics and world affairs have been largely ignored.




THE MOST IMPORTANT repercussion of the US media’s propagandistic reporting is that the American public is denied the ability to understand events as they unfold. Take for instance The New York Times‘ write-up of Khamenei’s sermon this past Friday in which he effectively declared war on the protesters. As Russell Berman pointed out in the Telos blog on Saturday, the Times‘ write-up was misleadingly selective.




The Times did not mention that Khamenei ascribed world events to a Zionist conspiracy which he believes controls the US. It similarly failed to mention his long rant against the US for the FBI’s 1993 raid on David Koresh’s Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.




Had the Times – and other major media outlets – properly reported Khamenei’s speech, they would have made clear to their readers that he is not a rational thinker. His view of world events is deeply distorted by his hatreds and prejudices and paranoia.




But then, if Times readers were permitted to know just how demented Khamenei’s views of the world are, they might come to the conclusion that Obama’s intense desire to sit down with him, and his constant pandering to Iran’s “supreme leader” are ill-advised and counterproductive. They might come to the conclusion that it is impossible to achieve a meeting of the minds with a man who calls Americans “morons” and leads his subordinate government officials in chants of “Death to America,” “Death to Britain” and “Death to Israel.”




And if they came to these conclusions, how could Obama be expected to affect anything?




Sunday, Cooper argued that Obama has changed the course of history in Iran simply by being the US president. In her words, unnamed Obama supporters claim that “the mere election of Barack Obama in the United States had galvanized reformers in Iran to demand change.”




And Obama’s power as president to change the world is not limited to Iran. As far as his media servants are concerned, his “mere election” is responsible for everything positive that has occurred in the US and throughout the world since last November.




TAKE HIZBULLAH’S defeat in the Lebanese parliamentary elections two weeks ago. As far as the US media are concerned, it was Obama’s speech to the Muslim world on June 4 that emboldened the Lebanese to back the anti-Syrian March 14 slate of candidates. Never mind that his speech – which refused to condemn Iran for its support for terrorism and its nuclear weapons program – actually strengthened Hizbullah’s position by demonstrating that the US would take no action against its Iranian masters. As far as the US media were concerned, Obama won the election for Hizbullah’s pro-Western rivals.




Yet this is not true. According to actual electoral data, what swung the balance towards Saad Hariri’s March 14 camp was Hizbullah-allied Christian leader Michel Aoun’s failure to convince Lebanon’s Christian minority to acquiesce to Hizbullah’s takeover of the country. And Lebanese Christian voters did not reject Hizbullah because Obama is President of the United States. They rejected Hizbullah because the Maronite Christian Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir warned them on th
e eve of the election, “We must be alert to the schemes being plotted for us and thwart the intense efforts which, if they succeed, will change the face of our country.”




WHILE OBAMA’S supporters in the US media are certain that Obama’s “mere election” is responsible for every positive development on the world scene, they are equally certain that he bears no responsibility for the negative developments that have happened so far on his watch.




For instance, the fact that North Korea chose to escalate its nuclear brinksmanship shortly after Obama took office with a promise of appeasing Pyongyang is considered irrelevant. The fact that he ordered deep cuts in the US missile defense budget as North Korea tested a long-range missile and a nuclear bomb, and that he has maintained these cuts despite North Korea’s announced plan to launch a missile against the US on July 4 has gone largely unreported.




Furthermore, the US media were quick to celebrate the UN Security Council’s recent resolution against North Korea which calls for inspections of suspicious North Korean ships travelling in international waters as a great Obama achievement. But they failed to inform the public that the resolution has no enforcement mechanism. Consequently, today the USS John McCain, which is tracking a North Korean ship suspected of carrying ballistic missiles, lacks the authority to interdict it and inspect the cargo.




OUR WORLD today is complex and fraught with dangers. Some of these dangers are new, and some are old. All require serious discussion.




In free societies, the media’s primary responsibilities are to report current events to the public, place those events into an historical context to enable the public to understand how and why they occurred, and to present the public with the options for going forward. It is due to the media’s historic role in maintaining and cultivating an informed discussion and debate about current affairs that they became known as democracy’s watchdog. When media organs fail to fulfill their basic responsibilities, they degenerate quickly into democracy’s undertaker. For an uninformed public is incapable of making the sorts of decisions required of free citizens.




Obama and his media flacks would have us believe that by speaking of American values and by distinguishing friend from foe, former president George W. Bush raised the hackles of the world against America. Perhaps there is some truth to this assertion. Perhaps there isn’t.




What they fail to consider is that by genuflecting to tyrants, Obama has made the US an international laughingstock. Far from sharing their adulation of Obama and his cool demeanor, most of the nations of the world believe that the US has abandoned its leadership role. And unlike the US media, they realize that America has no understudy.




Unfortunately, unless the Obama effect wears off soon, by the time the American people become aware of this fact it may be too late to make a difference.



Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.


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  • jhstuart 06/23/2009 at 8:06

    Your comments about the MSM are absolutely correct.
    The ‘Obama effect’ is a valuable benchmark, but not for the reasons the NYT states. Without exception, Obama’s policy are wreaking havoc with every attempt to Obamify the world. The Iranian struggle for freedom is only the latest (and not last, unfortunately)manifestation of his misguided efforts.

  • Marcel 06/23/2009 at 8:17

    The Pied Piper effect is not good.
    There have been a number of time in history where to people looked to their leader as a god,all the worst of times, and more recently where the media was the arm of the Government ,Fascism,Communism and National Socialism are just a few.
    Personally ,he reminds me of Idi Amin,Uganda’s butcher dictator and this is why he was silent with the mullah’s.
    They have much in common,birds of a feather.
    As the U.S. sinks deeper under Obama,his ugly side will be easier to see by even the most blind of loyalists as Amin’s closets friends learned too late.
    America has arrived to that dark place and now drinks in the poison which so many other nations have.
    They’ve been so successfully dumbed down that it is childs play for the fascist,marxists.socialists to take over America.
    We proud American’s always assumed we were above it.
    How wrong the proud fools have proven to be.
    Judgment day is here !
    At least Iranians protested a sham election unlike the numbed,passive Americans who are beyond getting off their recliners for anything.
    Newsweek editor Evan Thomas referred to Obama earlier this month as a “sort of God,”
    Israel’s faux right wing leader Netanyahu defered to Obama’s leadership regarding events in Iran as he continues to do with Israel’s existence.
    It look like Evan Thomas is not the only one who looks to Obama as sort of a god.
    The big question is why does Israel continue to follow this fascist pied piper when it is evident where he is leading them ?

  • Marc Handelsman, USA 06/23/2009 at 8:55

    Although President Obama still has a “honeymoon” with the media, that won’t last. When the American public and legislators closely scrutinize his fiscal policies, his popularity will dissipate. Currently, the President is widely popular amongst the media due to his rhetorical skills and demeanor. The media may want to help him get reelected, but a lot can happen between now and Election Day 2012. President Obama’s first big foreign policy blunder could be the Iranian situation. By doing nothing, Iran will maintain its theocracy, and continue to be the HQ of global jihad.

  • Marc Handelsman, USA 06/23/2009 at 8:57

    Although President Obama still has a “honeymoon” with the media, that won’t last. When the American public and legislators closely scrutinize his fiscal policies, his popularity will dissipate. Currently, the President is widely popular amongst the media due to his rhetorical skills and demeanor. The media may want to help him get reelected, but a lot can happen between now and Election Day 2012. President Obama’s first big foreign policy blunder could be the Iranian situation. By doing nothing, Iran will maintain its theocracy, and continue to be the HQ of global jihad.

  • Doug Santo 06/23/2009 at 10:13

    That was a great piece.
    The US media has lost credibility in my opinion. Many news outlets no longer report facts in a straight and unbiased fashion. Many news outlets site selective facts in thinly veiled opinion pieces to achieve a specific agenda.
    During the Bush years, especially the second term, negative reporting on Bush occurred almost every night on almost every television channel, and almost every morning in every major newspaper. Everything Bush did was wrong, according to the media. The media went to great lengths to try to demonstrate this. Over time the constant negative reporting had an effect. The country turned against the man.
    Now we see the result. A media out-of-control in adulation for a new president they agree with. Everything Obama does is correct, according to the media. The media go to great lengths to demonstrate this.
    What happened to professionalism in journalists? Have no self-respect? The US media, with few exceptions, is a disgrace.
    Doug Santo
    Pasadena, CA

  • beniyyar 06/23/2009 at 11:59

    Barack Obama now needs an obvious and undoubted success in foreign affairs, even though he seems to have most of the American media cheerleading whatever he does, whether Obama is ignoring the Iranian crisis or the North Korean nuclear missiles or whether Obama is doing something like swatting a fly, Mr. Obama has to show some results. I expect that Obama will now ratchet up the pressure on Israel to submit to his demand that no further Israeli building take place in any area across the former Green Line, that is the 1948 Cease Fire line. Since Obama is unable to press his agenda on anyone else, he will now force it on Israel, with the same fawning American media assisting him.

  • RWinks 06/23/2009 at 12:23

    Excellent analysis. The state media in US is disgusting. They make no attempt to hide the shameless propaganda. Obama can’t even put out a boilerplate statement of American support for self-determination, freedom and honest elections because he doesn’t support them. Obama’s history with the far left shows him to have far more in common with the mullahs than the people in the streets.
    President for Life Obama has diverted billions to the criminal group ACORN and has the DOJ working overtime to insure there are no more honest elections in the USA. Israel had better not put any faith in promises of support from USA. If you have nukes, I’d get them ready.

  • kaboom 06/23/2009 at 12:43

    It is nice to know that neo-con looniness is not confined to the US.

  • Marcel 06/23/2009 at 14:52

    ‘I expect that Obama will now ratchet up the pressure on Israel to submit to his demand that no further Israeli building take place in any area across the former Green Line, that is the 1948 Cease Fire line. Since Obama is unable to press his agenda on anyone else.’
    As President’s Carter,G.H.W.Bush,Billy Bob Clinton and G.Wicked Bush knew,Obama knows how easy Israel is to push around.
    They take the abuse like maschosist’s and refuse to stop it.
    is it out of fear or do the idol worshipers enjoy their sin ?
    When every Israeli prime minister brings knee pads on their visit to the White House (Ehud Barak and Shimon Peres keep a pair at the Israeli embassy for emergencies)as a sign of homage and worship, it’s no wonder Obama is drawn like a mutt to crap on Israel.
    So far the latest Israeli poodle minister has not been able to cut the leash.
    Here is something the U.S. does at moslem funerals that it does not permit it’s favorite abused pet on a leash to do.
    Whatever Baitullah Mehsud and his associates are doing in the name of Islam is not a jihad, and in fact it is rioting and terrorism,” Zainuddin told the AP after a mosque suicide bombing attack, blamed on Mehsud, killed 33 people. “Islam stands for peace, not for terrorism.”
    The Taliban faction leader who was seen as the chief rival to the militant group’s Pakistani head was fatally shot Tuesday, reportedly by one of his own guards.
    Also Tuesday, suspected U.S. missiles hit a suspected Taliban training center, then more missiles hit an evening funeral procession for some of those killed in the earlier strikes, officials and witnesses said.

  • Baruch 06/23/2009 at 16:01

    Once again, the bottom line on this is quite simply already history. America has been letting the corporate mainstream media get away with anything they want simply because the way they portray the world in nice, neat 2-D format is what people can digest even though it isn’t in any way related to the truth.
    Here we have the media President face to face with the media regime in Iran. It is like they are both looking into the mirror at one another while pretending to be having a conversation.
    What this means to Israel is twofold. First, Israel has to become used to the idea of an America that is lost in a land of fantasy. Obama probably does not mean to cause Israel any harm no more than he would like to cause Iran any harm. But the problem which is occurring now is a quantum shift away from America by its traditional allies. Simply put, the likes of Israel has precious little time to waste trying to educate a man who quite simply more interested in reading his lines in front of the camera than crafting meaningful policy based upon long-standing ties.
    For Israel, this must be a very painful episode, however, if one carefully looks at the facts then it can be a liberating time. Israel no longer must wait for America’s approval before acting in its own self-interest. This has not always been the case, and now by default it is almost unavoidable. If handled properly, this newfound bold move by Israel could create the beginnings of a new level of national pride which was heretofore considered unreachable. This is a move which would be politically pragmatic by simultaneously pleasing the religious and secular military communities, both of whom have the same notions regarding Israel’s long-term security needs but all too often become divided over matters of state policy.
    I admire the position in which Benjamin Netanyahu finds himself now. He is clearly in the driver’s seat, and depending upon how he is able to sway world Jewish opinion he stands to pull off a major coup that will positively affect generations to come. Israel must get used to the fact that world Jewish unity is key to the survival of the state. Statesmanship can arouse ones spirit clear across the globe, the effects of which can either make or break the viewpoint of a nation as either strong or weak. One needs no further proof of this than how Obama has mishandled the Iran affair.
    Many thanks for sharing your inspiring, eloquent writing.

  • Ron Grandinetti 06/23/2009 at 16:42

    Posted by Baruch
    Your right on.
    You and Glenn Beck have Hussein Obama pegged and he can’t hide.
    During his press conference today I noticed for once the questions are getting better.
    We all have to remember that Jeffrey Immelt CEO of G.E. and owns NBC is in bed with Hussein Obama and also serves President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board to provide the president and his administration with advice and counsel in fixing America’s economic downturn in addition to giving Obama a pass in the media.
    Also remember Chris Matthews of MSNBC said when Hussein Obama speaks he get a thrill up his leg. duh.
    Israel should take your advise and although I still believe a majority of Americans support Israel I think the liberal left media is working with the administration (shows anti-Semitic) is trying to change it.

  • Arius 06/23/2009 at 17:31

    Excellent article and comments. All I can add is this: Obama is a sign of what America has become. He is openly laying the ground for national socialism and dhimmitude. Israel has better read this right, and now, and not expect a future election to reset America.
    We Armenians now know what Obama is about. He made solemn promises to us multiple times, and since taking office has essentially told us to ‘drop dead’.

  • scott 06/23/2009 at 23:48

    Marc H.,
    Sorry. It Isn’t about his rhetorical skills. Zero could be as inarticulate as Bush and the MSM would fawn over him ever so sickeningly. The MSM is marxist to the bone and Zero is their boy. They’ve moved heaven and earth to bring him to power and they will stay solidly behind him.
    You are in much more trouble than you think.

  • Marcel 06/24/2009 at 7:39

    The Obama Letter
    (reading between the lines)
    Prior to this month’s disputed presidential election in Iran, the Obama administration sent a letter to the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, calling for an improvement in relations, according to interviews and the leader himself.
    U.S. officials declined to discuss the letter on Tuesday because it might awaken the Jews to the grave danger they face under President Obama, a day in which President Obama gave his strongest staged photo op condemnation of the Iranian crackdown against protesters.
    An Iranian with knowledge of the overture, however, told The Washington Times that the letter was sent between May 4 and May 10 and laid out the prospect of “cooperation in regional and bilateral relations”.The main issue being how to settle the “Israel problem” once and for all and get on with peaceful co-existence and a resolution of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.
    Obama informed Khamenei that his stooge in Israel,Netanyahu was weak and easy to control and more surrender and appeasment towards Islam was coming from the slowly dying problem state.

  • JH Griffin 06/24/2009 at 17:36

    Great article! Journalism is dead in the USA and soon our way of life will be too.

  • Ted Moran 06/25/2009 at 0:34

    Excellent commentary on how the American media is enabling the agenda of a person who has yet to prove that he has fulfilled the requirements to be President of the US.
    This is becoming surreal at times.

  • Tomer Elias 06/25/2009 at 15:43

    Its amazing to see how Netanyahu seems to be doing things like you suggested he do in your previous article Openly showing his support to the struggle of the Iranian people and delaying his meeting in europe with Mitchell and moving it to a meeting with Barak when he is in the US.
    Does this mean we can be a little more optimistic about the future?

  • Marcel 06/25/2009 at 17:47

    Tomer ,
    Why is it that so many are so easliy fooled ?
    So easily led by the nose and unable to grasp the reality of what Netanyahu is.
    Dreamers who grab onto any lie and delusion when the truth is right under their nose.


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