Failed Media

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

So first, a correspondent with Politics Daily whinges about Michelle Obama's recent vacay in Spain. Read the whole article and tell me it doesn't have an air of chip-on-the-shoulder.

The first lady is traveling with a small number of friends, who arrived on their own. While Mrs. Obama pays for her personal expenses, taxpayers pick up the costs of three shifts of Secret Service details and other security and support staffers, plus most costs associated with her Air Force plane.
One thing that irritates me about that is the misleading "taxpayers pick up the tab" piece. First, Michelle Obama would have Secret Service protection if she vacationed in Disney, New Orleans, San Francisco, or the U.P. She has them when she goes shopping. She has them while just sitting in the White House watching TV. Second, it makes it sound like there is extra expense involved. There may be extra expense for, say, a hotel room for 3 shifts-worth of Secret Service agents, but in terms of the agents themselves, there simply isn't. It's not like we have big plastic boxes of Agent Xs waiting to be purchased, unwrapped and turned on when she needs an escort. These are agents getting a paycheck, watching her that day or not.
She is now at a world-renowned resort while the jobless rate is high and the economy is still struggling. By doing so she is tempting a backlash. Mrs. Obama is highlighting the beauty of Spain's Mediterranean coast before her weekend visit to Florida's coast later this month to encourage tourism in areas not impacted by the BP oil spill.

The East Wing argues that Mrs. Obama is not an elected official and, as a private citizen, is free to focus on her family and friends. Still, what she does will be perceived by the public one way or another -- the East Wing has to know that. Mrs. Obama has gone to great lengths so far to avoid any controversy in her tenure and as a result has popularity ratings in every poll much higher than her husband's.
There is so much wrong with her statements. The jobless rate is high, therefore Mrs. Obama needs to stay home too? And drawing a parallel between Spain's coast and Florida's in the wake of the disaster is a false comparison. It's simply silliness to try connect the two. And of fucking course she is more popular than her husband; she's not the one making the decisions he is! Jesus, people hired this correspondent??

She then contradicts herself in her assertion that Mrs. Obama is somehow highlighting the beauty of Spain's coast by listen Michelle's 8 vacation destinations this summer. #7? "Aug. 14: A first family weekend planned on the Florida Gulf coast. The first couple have been trying to draw tourists to the area in the wake of the BP disaster."

The journalist's next article is more whinging. My favorite part is in the 1st paragraph where she says "questions are being raised about the cost to taxpayers," whereby she links to her own article wherein she asked the question herself. Great, top-notch journalism. People are asking questions! Who? Me!

Says the article: "ABC did a piece Friday morning about Mrs. Obama and Sasha buying matching sundresses, the ritzy resort they visited and the heavy coverage of the visit by Spanish media." OK. Great. My wife went to Traverse City and spent gobs of money on expensive beer and chocolate. The worse part is the insinuation that the lavish spending spree is linked to taxpayers. She is betting we forgot that one days earlier, this same journalist acknowledged "Mrs. Obama pays for her personal expenses".

We also get the same criticism meme the author is trying to create: "And while Mrs. Obama and President Obama have tried to encourage tourism in Gulf Coast areas not impacted by the BP oil spill, she is highlighting the beauty of Spain's Mediterranean beaches before the first family travels to Florida's Gulf Coast on Aug. 14 for a weekend stay." Really?? On purpose??

Ah! Finally the comparison I was waiting for. Lynn Sweet delivers the goods: "Mrs. Bush's true personal trips were hiking vacations in national parks with female pals."

Fancy-pants Michelle takes personal trips with no official duties to lavish resorts. Plane-Jane Laura, however, sensing the mood of the electorate, took her dutiless trips to our glorious national parks.

And then? Ms. Sweet publishes what amounts to a grudging apology! Included in the apology are gems like: "A reason Mrs. Obama stayed at the ritzy Villa Padierna in Marbella was security, I was told. Agents were able to secure the lush resort and a nearby beach." I really like how she works "lavish" in just one more time to make sure we get the point that she didn't stay at an Econolodge. She admits herself, as do Secret Service guys, that one reason you stay at 4+-star resorts as a President is because they are very, very easy to secure, allowing Secret Service to use the already-robust hotel security at an upscale joint.
The Spain vacation put the first dent in her brand since becoming first lady. She was criticized for choosing Spain's Costa del Sol instead of the Gulf Coast, where tourism is hurting because of the BP oil spill; for going on another vacation when people in the U.S. face tough economic times; and for incurring taxpayer expenses for the trip.
She was criticized? By whom, may I ask? Why, you, Ms. Sweet. And Matt Fucking Drudge. This final "apology" article started thusly
Michelle Obama returned to Washington on Sunday from five days on Spain's Mediterranean coast, taking a mother-daughter trip with Sasha, 9, that stirred controversy. A White House source told me, however, that Mrs. Obama traveled to Spain to help a grieving friend deal with the death of her father.
.For the record, the "stirred controversy" in the quote a link back to her own controversy-stirring original article.

The Main Stream Media: liberal as ever.

My favorite comment to Sweet's article: "I believe I detect a bit of envy and jealously in the comments I am reading. I am of the opinion that a public person can't win regardless of his or her choices in their private life..they are dammed if they do and dammed if they don't. Let a mother show her daughter a bit of the world."


Bob 11:50 AM  

And then Lynn Sweet drove home in her Lexus while Detroit's unemployment rate is 25%. On her way home she bought some peal and eat shrimp and never checked to see that it was imported from Asia, not harvested from the gulf. Along with the shrimp, she picks up a bottle of Italian wine, bipassing Califonian wine as that state goes through an economic crisis. I could go on...

I wonder where Sweet vacationed this year?

Smitty 11:58 AM  

I wonder where Sweet vacationed this year?

To which she would glibly reply that she is not the public figure.

Apparently public figures are accountable for their complete insignificant actions as they are for the significant or public ones. ZOMG! Michelle Obama ate a Dove bar! How could she during this time of economic crisis eat such an expensive ice cream bar!

Wait...I honeymooned in Ireland. I must be unAmerican, showcasing the beauty of Ireland's River Shannon against the ravaged waterway of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan!!

Mrs. Smitty 12:26 PM  

This is why for my day-vacation, I am taking a used motorhome, driven by a Michigan resident to various Michigan cities to drink OUR beer and eat OUR food. You unamerican (and jealous) traitors...

I could be a public figure.

steves 5:48 PM  

I guess it is hard for me to get all that worked up about both her vacation and the critique of the article on her vacation. I can't recall a single president in my lifetime (going back to Ford...I don't really remember Nixon) where there wasn't some criticism of how public funds were used to transport the President. It is even worse when it comes to the President's family and entourage.

I can also remember when Engler was campaigning against Blanchard and said if he wanted to go up to Mackinac Island, he would drive his Oldsmobile. At that time Blanchard flew up there in State owned airplane.

I agree that the expenses related to the Secret Service details are probably not all that much higher when their person travels abroad, but I would imagine that the costs associated with flying them overseas is probably fairly high. They aren't flying on some commercial airline or C-130.

I certainly don't think it is reasonable to expect the First Lady to never travel or to only travel to certain locations, but I don't think it is unreasonable for taxpayers to ask about any of these vacations. My question is what would be unreasonable? How much would too much be?

steves 8:23 PM  

My favorite comment to Sweet's article: "I believe I detect a bit of envy and jealously in the comments I am reading. I am of the opinion that a public person can't win regardless of his or her choices in their private life..they are dammed if they do and dammed if they don't.

This is a good point. I recall reading about the uproar following Obama's decision to use an helicopter to fly across DC to give some speech. If decided to not go, I am sure he would have been blasted for being out of touch.

Bob 7:20 AM  

"if he wanted to go up to Mackinac Island, he would drive his Oldsmobile. At that time Blanchard flew up there in State owned airplane."

And then Engler bought more state airplanes. No joke.

I think first ladies should be on house arrest as soon as the President is sworn in.

Smitty 7:50 AM  

but I don't think it is unreasonable for taxpayers to ask about any of these vacations

This article (and perhaps I should write it better) is more of a rant on our failed media experiment than it is grousing about the reporter who groused about Michelle's trip. This series of articles served as the example of what I was talking about more than being the subject itself.

Read all 3 articles. They all (the first one especially) read like a tabloid rant, what with detailed breakdowns of clothing choices and future vacation itineraries, all the while criticizing every aspect of the trip; from leaving Barack home by himself on his birthday to gratuitous use of the word "lavish."

The fact that the used a device whereby she states that "people say" and links to what is ostensibly the only person saying it...the author herself. It's weak and misleading and was more of a contrived effort to stir-up some shit than it was an honest op-ed asking "what's up with an expensive trip?"

What it came down to to me was that she wanted to bug the WH enough to finally get a coffee or lunch with a press staffer to get her to STFU. She felt left out of the beltway press corps and wanted to remind the WH she exists. Why else write 3 articles over 3 days, with the last one finally clarifying what the trip was about (only after talking to the DCCC Chair!).

Streak 8:07 AM  

Smitty, I think your point is well made that the media operates in some kind of false echo chamber. I have thought that myself when listening to Mara Liasson on NPR. And the Daily Show did it pretty good in 04

steves 4:45 PM  

Smitty, I see your point and agree completely. It does have an air of tabloid journalism and highlights what sells to the masses. No wonder why the media's approval ratings are at an all time low.

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