Time's Halperin speaks: The D.C. Cool Kids don't like Obama

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

If life really were like high school, Barack Obama would so be frozen out of the cool kids' table in the cafeteria right now. And Time pundit Mark Halperin would probably the one talking trash to the popular kids and making sure Obama remained on the outs.

Forget that nonsense about how the liberal media love the Democratic president. That meme has always been a far-right joke. The truth is today Obama, like his 1990's Democratic predecessor, faces a torrent of contempt from the self-appointed "elites" like Halperin who dress up their dislike for the president and present it as analysis, and who relentlessly inform readers and viewers that everyone has lost faith in the president.

But the fact is the public opinion needle on Obama hasn't moved in the last year. No matter how many hours Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck spend each week cataloging Obama's sins and portraying Obama as Satan's terrorist-loving child sent to destroy the republic, and no matter how often right-wing loving pundits like Halperin dutifully dress up anti-Obama hate rhetoric and present it --and legitimize it-- as independent insight, the American people maintain the same general opinion of Obama that they did twelve months ago.

And honestly, I'm not sure who's more frustrated by that trend, Beck and Limbaugh, or the likes of Mark Halperin, whose anger seems to mount with each passing month. In his most recent column, we learn that, according to Halperin, insiders now dismiss Obama as an "ignorant" "wimp" who's "incompetent and overwhelmed."

Previously Halperin clued us into the fact that "politically engaged elites" viewed Obama and his inner circle being "isolated, insular, arrogant and clueless."

Halperin has even thoughtfully described who the mighty elites are who have concluded Obama's an utter failure: "Fox News pundits, executives and anchors at the major old-media outlets, reporters who cover the White House." In other words, pretty much the same insiders who were sure President George W. Bush's approval ratings would rebound during his second term.

What's so fascinating, and creepy, about Halperin's take on the Obama-dissing elites is his misguided assumption of their power and influence:

These trends are all worse in Washington and among opinion leaders than they are in the country at large, but the views of elites are clearly shaping how the President is perceived by the nation in general.

Note that sentiment because it's a centrally held belief within the often self-inflated Beltway press: The views of the elites are shaping how the President is perceived by the nation in general.


And that's the whole problem with Halperin's premise in which he brags that because media elites have soured on Obama, so too has the rest of the country. Polls indicate that's simply not the case, which is why, I assume, Halperin studiously avoided making any mention of polling data in his column. Who needs polls to know what Americans think about Obama when pundits like Halperin will just tell you straight up?

Halperin stressed Obama "can't achieve anything in 2011 and 2012, or get re-elected, unless he can win back support from some of his core groups." But as I noted earlier this week, that's just not true. In terms of the core groups that voted for Obama two years ago (i.e. blacks, Latino's, Democrats, women, etc.) they still strongly support his presidency. In some cases, in overwhelming fashion. So basically Halperin claims it's imperative Obama "win back support from some of his core groups," which is tricky because Obama hasn't lost their support. i.e. Obama can't get re-elected unless he wins the backing of groups that still support him. Brilliant!

That's not to deny the reality of the day and to suggest Obama hasn't recently angered or frustrated some followers. But Halperin has been making the same doomsday claim about Obama's base deserting him all year long. Halperin's disdain for Obama (and Democrats) has nothing to do with how the president's supporters feel. It simply reflects how a small circle of Beltway elites feel. The issue of disillusioned supporters is simply shoehorned into the story after the fact to give Halperin's analysis some semblance of authenticity.

That's why Obama disdain drips off Halperin's column the same way it drips off the microphone of AM talk radio stations coast-to-coast. The Time pundit belittles the president for having a "Spock-like laconic demeanor," which is odd because in an anti-Obama column from October, Halperin mocked the president for being too angry and too partisan. So apparently Halperin, tapping into his Goldilocks roots, can't decide if Obama's too hot (he's demonizing Republicans!) or too cold (he's just like Spock).

And please note this damned-if-he-does-damned-if-doesn't routine is exactly how the Beltway press corps treated Bill Clinton during the early, bumpy stages of his first term. For media elites, the young Democratic president from the middle of the country was naïve, clueless, in over his head, and getting played by super-savvy Republicans. Fast-forward approximately 15 years and Washington media elites are convinced that the young Democratic president from the middle of the country is naïve, clueless, in over his head, and getting played by super-savvy Republicans.

Meaning, the current elitist disdain for Obama represents a larger, ongoing trend in which the Beltway press publicly, and conveniently, mirrors right-wing talking points about a young Democratic president. (i.e. He's a failure!)

On the flip side, recall that when it came to mouthing worshipful, pro-Bush talking points during the previous administration, few did it more dutifully or with more enthusiasm than Mark Halperin. Back then he edited ABC News' The Note, a daily political tip sheet, and turned it into a de facto in-house RNC newsletter.

Flashback: In January 2006, bowled over by Bush's rhetorical flourish, Halperin announced, "That is the kind of answer and vision that will get a man's approval rating back over 53% any day now." Four months later Bush's approval rating fell to a barely-there 31 percent.

More proof that the media insider trend is a partisan one? Just look at the pro-Palin manifesto Halperin penned two months ago. In that mash note, Halperin lectured the press not to underestimate the celebrity Republican and not to miss her pure political genius.

So while Palin's polling numbers continued to deteriorate, Halperin urged fellow elites not to underestimate the Republican star. Yet while Obama's polling numbers remain stable today, Halperin announces in-the-know elites have already written him off.

Behold your liberal media.

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