Rarely has a lame duck emitted such a strange series of quacks, as President Obama sat down for a pre-Super Bowl interview with Bill O’Reilly in which the latter asked the kind of tough questions Obama’s adoring media never asks… and Obama refused to answer any of them.
Remember how Obama said he was more angry and frustrated about the failure of the ObamaCare launch than anyone? Forget all that. He’s not going to hold anyone accountable – he thinks “accountability” is just a magic word that he needs to repeat until the scandal goes away.
Remember when Obama said the IRS abuse of conservative groups was totally unacceptable, and swore he’d get to the bottom of it? Never mind. He now says the whole thing is a creation of Fox News. Ditto for the Benghazi scandal, in which Fox News was somehow able to hypnotize Obama, Hillary Clinton, and their underlings into lying repeatedly about the deaths of four Americans. Why, Bill O’Reilly was able to Jedi mind-trick Obama proxy Susan Rice into repeating this lie on every single Sunday talk show! He must have also compelled those IRS officials into admitting the targeting of conservative groups was improper, because now Obama says there wasn’t a “smidgen of corruption” about the whole affair. (Remember when it was all supposedly the work of renegade low-level employees in Cincinnati, who were going to be identified and severely punished?)
Total number of people fired by Obama over the IRS and Benghazi scandals combined: zero. But Obama is prepared to repeat the word “accountability” as often as necessary, on the very rare occasions someone in the media asks him about these matters.
The Obama interview turned out to be eerie foreshadowing for the Super Bowl game, in which Seattle kept scoring points, and Denver never answered them. In the end, the Seattle Seahawks defeated the Denver 404 Errors, 43-8.
What the President was doing with this curious non-interview is checking off a box. Now he can say he appeared on Fox News with the pugnacious Bill O’Reilly. The rest of his swooning media fans wont’ care that he spouted off a string of embarrassing lies and evasions. They’re not going to press him on any of this stuff. Nobody from the lamestream media is going to corner Obama next week and demand to know why all the early IRS internal reports said there was seriously improper behavior going on, but now he claims it was all just Fox News obsessing over a non-story. No other media organization is going to step up for Fox News, or declare it outrageous for the President to blame very real scandals – with a body count – on a single media organization he dislikes. The rest of the press was only briefly troubled by Obama spying on them.
That’s why no Republican could ever get away with this. The media would network, close ranks, ask the same questions in unison, refuse to accept evasions instead of answers. The old Beltway wisdom held that the worst way to handle a scandal was to drag it out, because the constant drip-drip-drip of new revelations and punctured talking points would be the death of a thousand cuts. Obama and his team always knew that didn’t apply to them. They can drag out any scandal for as long as they please, knowing that the press will not object to their delaying tactics, or bounce the story back to the front page every time a new revelation comes out. On the contrary, full and prompt disclosure would be the worst thing for them, because it would oblige the media to treat these stories as a really big deal for at least one news cycle.
Give Obama credit for understanding, perhaps better than any major national figure before him, that in the world of 24-7 online news coverage, victory comes one news cycle at a time. The system only has lingering attention for a story if the media builds it into a Narrative – i.e. how all of the scandals Obama refused to discuss candidly with Bill O’Reilly come together into a story about an Administration willing to abuse authority for political gain, obfuscate every inquiry, and handle even the most important matters with seat-of-the-pants improvisation by inept political appointees, confident they can clean up any resulting messes on the next round of Sunday shows. Since the press will never, ever spin such a narrative about Barack Obama, he can follow a scandal management strategy of saying the most ridiculous, patently false things for a week or two, “winning” the spin war, and then consolidating victory by declaring the story “old news.”
And really, what are you going to do about it? America missed its chance to remove him from office, in part because his say-anything news cycle war of attrition worked, with a very timely assist from “moderator” Candy Crowley during a crucial debate. It’s dangerous to leave someone like Obama in power, because he’ll do the same things again, as we saw when Benghazi tactics were used to survive the ObamaCare launch debacle. But that’s what America did, and at this point, even if Obama’s ego allowed for frank admissions of failure, his political interests would not be well-served by actually doing anything about the scandals O’Reilly brought up.
If he fired anyone, that person would become a loose cannon with good reason to cook up a tell-all book. (Imagine the book Kathleen Sebelius could have written, if Obama had sacked her in October: “A Woman Alone: How I Was Abandoned By My President and Left to Manage His Signature Achievement.”) He’d also be putting meat on the bones of a story by actually holding someone accountable, which would make the kind of performance he turned in for O’Reilly impossible – he couldn’t say Benghazi was a nothingburger if the sort of head that turns up on talking-head shows had rolled. And he’d demoralize his hardcore True Believers by following through on his loud Day One promises to get to the bottom of scandals they don’t want to think about. (Well, Day Two promises, really, because Obama always claims he didn’t learn about these unfortunate developments until he read the newspaper the following morning.)
This is what happens when you install a President the media loves with romantic intensity, America. One network is not a substitute for the adversarial relationship you’d enjoy between press and Administration if you voted smart, and elected a President the media hates.