ERIC BOEHLERT/Media Matters For America
Looking back at the Senate's failure last week to pass gun safety legislation in the wake of the school massacre in Newtown, CT., Slate's John Dickerson writes that the bill fell victim to "the structure of the Senate, its partisan makeup, and pressure from gun rights advocates."
I guess that's one way of putting it. Another way of putting it is that Republicans continued to adhere to their unprecedented, four-year campaign of obstructionism and blocked a bill, whose central proposal, expanded background checks, enjoyed a stunning 90 percent support from the American public. But that's not the story Beltway pundits and reporters want to tell.
Instead, with the political postmortems continuing to come in, it's clear the press remains committed to blaming Obama and Democrats for the failure of gun legislation. It's clear the press will not budget from its preferred storyline that as long as Republicans obstruct Obama's agenda, the president will be faulted for not changing the GOP's unprecedented behavior.
And yes, in recent days the level of purposeful obtuseness has reached astonishing heights. In the wake of the bitter gun bill defeat, the DC press wants to tell one story, and one story only: Obama blew it. And they're so committed to the crooked narrative that they're now willing to completely write Republicans out of the story.
How committed? Slate's Dickerson wrote a 1,000-word piece about the gun bill and never once typed the word "Republican." (Or "GOP.") For Dickerson, Republicans weren't players in the gun bill saga, and they certainly weren't the reason it failed to pass. Instead, it failed because of the "president's limitations as a negotiator." And why was that? Because Obama "couldn't master the art of politics," Dickerson wrote.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd agreed, claiming the bill's defeat represented a "glaring example" of Obama's weakness. She ridiculed the president for not having "learned how to govern."
And an April 23 front-page New York Times report offered the similar refrain:
If he cannot translate the support of 90 percent of the public for background checks into a victory on Capitol Hill, what can he expect to accomplish legislatively for his remaining three and a half years in office.
The fact is that a majority of Republicans blocked the bill, and blocked even allowing debate on the gun safety bill. But that is now deemed to be irrelevant. Obama's supposed personal and professional shortcomings last week are the real story.
Is the president fair game for criticism and second-guessing in the wake of the gun bill's failure? Of course. Is Obama the only reason the gun bill didn't pass? He is not. But boy, the pundit class and elite reporters sure like to pretend he is.
Indeed, all the savvy sages agree. If Obama had just been better at being president, if he'd just asked Republicans nicely, or if he'd bullied them publicly (of if he'd created a "war room full of charts," claims Dowd) the gun bill would have easily passed. (Bipartisanship is possible!) And because he failed, the "smart" media take now is to blame the person who tried to get background checks passed, not the politicians who stood in the way of a legislation based around a proposal nine-out-of-ten people supported.
From Buzzfeed's McKay Coppins:
Read this smart story on Obama's missteps in the gun control fight.buzzfeed.com/evanmcsan/wher...-- McKay Coppins (@mckaycoppins) April 22, 2013
What's so frustrating is that the press absolutely refuses to connect the dots. Rather than seeing the gun bill obstructionism as part of an obvious Republican continuum, and rather than noting the gun obstructionism followed the sequester obstructionism, which followed the Chuck Hagel confirmation obstructionism, which followed the Hurricane Sandy emergency relief obstructionism, which followed consistent obstructionism on juridical nominees, the press pretends the gun vote occurred in vacuum.
That's because if you connect the dots, if you explain what's really going on in Congress under Obama, you can't prop up the phony premise that Obama stands an actual chance of picking up lots of GOP votes on popular issues, and that if he just knew how to manage the levers of power, bipartisan agreements would blossom in Washington.
If the press tells the truth about Republicans' intransigent behavior, it can't blame Obama for lost votes. Instead, pundits like Dickerson simply write Republicans out of the story.