- - Wednesday, November 6, 2013



Journalists who once wrote glowingly about President Obama have turned on him — at least for the moment.

On covers and in accompanying articles from Bloomberg Businessweek to The New Yorker, Mr. Obama has been depicted as a bumbling geek who failed to oversee his signature health care legislation and as a liar who made promises about the law he knew could not be kept.

“The disastrous launch of HealthCare.gov, the online portal that was supposed to be the linchpin of the Affordable Care Act, has dealt a devastating blow to [Mr.] Obama’s vision,” liberal columnist Ezra Klein lamented in a story in Bloomberg Businessweek.

The cover seemed particularly damaging, with a spinning rainbow pinwheel indicating a computer freezing up and the line: “One year — and one epic fail — into his second term, Barack Obama needs a reboot.”

The New Yorker cover was also troubling for the president. It depicts Mr. Obama holding a clunky cellular telephone from the 1980s alongside Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, her fingers crossed, while a tech guy tries to insert a floppy disk into a computer.

This week, the administration reported that more than 800 problems remained to be fixed on the Obamacare website. That’s not exactly the savvy image the administration has tried to portray.

Why have the media turned on Mr. Obama? The president repeatedly lied about the health care program. Reporters don’t like that happening on their watch, no matter how positive their coverage may have been.

Moreover, a series of failures has haunted the administration: the deaths of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Libya, the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservatives and Justice Department inquiries into journalists.

Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post noted: “All three [scandals] seem, as some of us predicted, far less damaging in retrospect than they did in the political heat of the moment. The menu of current problems feels far more perilous because these go to issues of core competency to govern.”

I still think the three first issues are at least as important as the HealthCare.gov debacle, but questions of the president’s veracity spring from statements like these:

Families would save an average of $2,500 a year on health insurance, a “misstatement,” according to the White House.

People could keep their health insurance if they liked it, even though the administration knew that 50 percent to 75 percent of 14 million Americans in the individual market would not be able to do so.

About 330,000 people in Florida have received cancellation notices from the state’s largest insurer. Kentucky residents have received 130,000 cancellation notices, and 140,000 in Minnesota and as many as 400,000 in Georgia have lost coverage. The figures will increase every day because Obamacare requires a variety of mandatory additions to health care coverage, including birth control pills, mental health care and even maternity benefits for men.

Nevertheless, Mr. Obama still can depend upon on some staunch supporters in the media. The meme already has started that insurance companies and congressional Republicans should be blamed for the health care mess.

Charles Blow, a columnist for The New York Times, offered this apology for the president. “The [Republican] party is too consumed with ax-grinding and not concerned enough with idea-generation.”

Despite apologists like Mr. Blow, the president’s approval ratings have dropped to their lowest point in five years. It will be difficult to blame others, and fewer and fewer journalists apparently are willing to play the shill for Mr. Obama.

Christopher Harper is a professor at Temple University. He worked for more than 20 years at The Associated Press, Newsweek, ABC News and “20/20.” He can be contacted at charper@washingtontimes.com. Twitter: @charper51

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