Addison Gardner: Always Right | AspenTimes.com

Addison Gardner: Always Right

Addison Gardner
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

With the elevation of Barack Obama to the White House, we have successfully centrifuged enough beefcake uranium to reach critical mass and transform the press corps into Malibu/Waikiki paparazzi.

Nobody could have avoided the front-page pictures of Obama’s naked torso, toothy grin, backwards ball cap, and hip-hop hand salutes. They trumped the latest Israeli retaliation in Gaza; they eclipsed the Democrat embarrassment in Chicago; they moved the Madoff mess to page E4; and they bumped Britney’s comeback tour.

And these photos and stories ” “The girls had fruity shaved ices; dad had a tuna melt …” ” weren’t targeted at the mouth-breathers who buy celebrity gossip magazines like “People,” “US,” and “Star”; they were featured on the front pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post.

We read in The Washington Post that Barack offered to buy his reportorial flock sugary shaved ices, too, but they giggled and demurred; just being near him was sweet enough.

Ever since MSNBC’s Chris Matthews uttered his “thrill up my leg” comments during coverage of the Obama campaign last February, his intemperate, on-air ejaculation has set the standard for male journalist man-crushes. Last week’s articles in The Washington Post and New York Times transcended that, however, when working reporters eulogized Obama’s workout-sculpted, “sun-kissed pectorals.”

After a 7-year hiatus, featuring presidential jock jokes and pictures of Bush falling off his mountain bike, Obama has made it respectable for presidents to exercise again.

The only thing I will miss about President Bush ” since, with his Detroit bailout, he has succeeded in erasing the line between Republicans and FDR Democrats ” is his ability to transform blinking, baby-owl journalists into snarling junkyard dogs.

I never had to worry about Dubya wooing away the press’s objectivity; it was implicit, from day one ” Jan. 20, 2001 ” when Bush’s inaugural parade featured attenuated coverage of Pennsylvania Avenue’s processional protesters, turned backs, angry signs, and unsuccessfully muted insults.

There was no effort by the national media to soft-pedal that strident message, nor did anyone think it amiss when the networks cut away to cover, endlessly, Bill’s banana-republic departure from Andrews Air Force Base ” complete with epaulette-shouldered military band, endless speeches and a sobbing Janet Reno.

Every Bush embarrassment was delighted in, from the eggs and tomatoes hurled at the inaugural motorcade (amidst signs of “Hail to the Thief!”) to Jenna’s “wardrobe malfunction” on the inaugural dance floor, to excited giggles about the missing “W” keys on White House word processors.

Inauguration Day was a perfect storm of bitter cold, sodden skies and sullen coverage.

And this was the “Bush Honeymoon” ” things proceeded rapidly downhill, once the press corps got wind of the fact that the sober Texan was an exercise fanatic who got up early, ran 7-minute miles, went to bed by 9 p.m., and vacationed in Podunkville.

There were endless columns deriding the “Jock-in-Chief” for his morning workouts, culminating in a succession of Maureen Dowd columns that imagined President Bush, post-workout, sipping scotch whiskey with Cheney in the White House hot tub. Nobody can forget the hysterically funny comedy skits featuring President Bush’s choking on a West Wing pretzel ” or the press’s wry speculations about whether he’d been drinking in January 2002.

It’s convenient, now, to suggest that press animosity dated from the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but this was all well before Colin Powell performed his U.N. dog n’ pony show, well before the Marines rolled into Baghdad, and well before Cindy Sheehan’s tent city sprouted in Crawford, Texas.

The disaffection with Bush was the media “norm,” long before we knew that “Bush lied and (insert victim here) died!” It started in Florida, and it followed Bush to Washington like a rabid bloodhound.

Compare and contrast the clinical cynicism with which every Bush action has been autopsied to today’s fawning adoration of Obama ” a mindless media embrace that recalls unbuttoned blouses and backstage groupie-dom.

While Obama dazzles the press in his workout togs, the Iranians are enriching uranium at an accelerating pace, and the Russians are engaging in a reactionary retrenchment that features a projection of their warships into the Caribbean.

In Moscow, a repressive domestic crackdown has expanded the definition of treason (20-year mandatory prison sentence) for “taking action aimed at endangering the constitutional order, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Russia.” The Russian Duma is redrafting the Federation Constitution to allow President Putin to remain in office by expanding presidential term limits to 12 years.

Chinese “opinion shapers” are penning paeans to the Russian bear’s resurgence on the world stage, just as Russian state media publishes pieces by its political analysts predicting the “disintegration of America by 2010.”

Meanwhile, the body count mounts in Gaza, the Taliban is increasingly emboldened in Afghanistan, and India/Pakistan are playing a deadly game of nuclear brinkmanship.

Did I mention Obama has a great jump shot?

It now seems pointless ” in the context of the president-elect’s political “roots” ” to despair about “the Chicago way,” or to bemoan the recent eruption of gubernatorial corruption that is covering America’s political landscape with 3 feet of volcanic ash.

We were too busy digging for dirt in Wasilla, Alaska, to take note of tremors in Illinois.

We just have to hope, moving forward, that the media’s three-monkey act (“see-no-evil,” “say-no-evil,” “hear-no-evil”) will soon be supplanted by the same, rabid cynicism that dogged the Bush presidency.

The latest news? Gov. Richardson has withdrawn as Obama’s Commerce Secretary nominee: See, he’s being investigated for corruption in New Mexico.

A great democracy depends upon a press comprised of guard dogs, not lapdogs.


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