Friday, January 9, 2009

Where is Bush?

Eight years and one month ago, there were a plethora of stories analyzing the Bill Clinton legacy. Even with the dynamics of the November 2000 election - another Bush in office, the GOP taking back the White House - didn't prevent a wealth of Clinton front-page stories and magazine covers.

Somehow, these stories easily managed to put aside Clinton's tremendous personal failing and the fact that this country had witnessed its first impeached president.

The New York Times wrote in December, 2000, that in spite of two tumultuous terms, Clinton "remains near the center of the collective consciousness." As you read this and other stories back then, it was painfully clear the news media still loved this guy and were willing to paint a story that reflected more on his contributions rather than his failings or any pain inflicted on the nation. More glow, less hatred.

Reporters were practically stumbling over themselves to keep writing about the Clinton legacy in mostly glowing terms. The stories began shortly after the election of W and peaked during the holidays. Articles and broadcasts were "balanced" in pointing out his failures and embarrassments, but quickly shoved this stuff aside.

Fast forward to this winter.

Sure, the economy, the Gaza Strip, two wars being fought by the U.S., the Obama phenomenon are all important stories. One could argue that these critical events, on the natural, would push aside the usual president's-term analysis story. And, this is not to say the multi-faceted and complex and unraveling story of the global economic meltdown should take a backseat, even for a day.

Yet, a two-term president must mean something!

Regardless of your feelings for Bush and forget, for now, this week's poll that accurately points out historic low approval ratings. Accurate portrayals of a presidential legacy - as done by "historians" and not by political commentators whose credentials are mostly dubious - require the unbiased examination of impact, accomplishment and change.

Yet, there is an incredible lack of volume of legacy coverage. We're well into the new year and the legacy stories who do find are buried and mostly overwhelmingly critical.

I won't use this space to attempt any definition of Bush's legacy, other than to remind folks of what he faced in his first term (9/11, fixing a recession, etc.).

No, this commentary is merely to examine whether the news media is treating the "legacy" story this time with the same fairness and approach as they did eight years ago, or 12 years ago and so on. Today, a quick review of then-and-now headlines, cover photos and stories suggest - and only suggest - there are major differences. Which, of course, brings up questions again about news media bias.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good point to reflect on. Thank you for writing it.