Media Fawn Over Obama Exit, Won’t Call Him Lame Duck

Press heralds outgoing president's flimsy executive actions as 'signature’ achievements

President Obama has been the lamest of lame ducks for 57 days, but big broadcast news media continue to imply his last-minute unilateral actions will live on as “signature” achievements and portray him as the man in charge.

In fact, the morning and evening news shows of CBS, ABC, and NBC have not referred to him as a lame duck — not once — even as he prepares to load up his moving van and leave the White House.

“They’re clinging to every moment [Obama] has left.”

“They’re clinging to every moment he has left,” said Mike Ciandella, an analyst for the Media Research Center who reviewed 57 days of broadcast news coverage since the Nov. 8 election.

Ciandella said it’s amazing that the term “lame duck” has not been used once since the election. A so-called lame duck is someone ready to leave office, but in transition. His or her successor has been elected and is waiting to be sworn in.

The officeholder is seen as having little influence with the legislature, as lawmakers tend to be working already with the next president or governor during the transition.

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Not using the term “lame duck” in reference to Obama shows a fawning deference to Obama. It also means media bias has struck again. Obama, a liberal Democrat, was a rock star with reporters when he was first elected president in 2008.

Back in late 2008, after easily beating Republican Sen. John McCain, Obama was a U.S. senator and a president-in-waiting. Many in the media openly pined for a change in the laws to allow Obama to take office immediately.

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On Nov. 23, 2008, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman wrote: “If I had my druthers right now, we would convene a special session of Congress, amend the Constitution and move up the inauguration from Jan. 20 to Thanksgiving Day. Just get me a Supreme Court justice and a Bible, and let’s swear in Barack Obama right now — by choice — with the same haste we did — by necessity — with LBJ in the back of Air Force One.”

Meanwhile, the media heaped liberal usage of the term “lame duck” upon outgoing President George W. Bush, according to Ciandella.

Ciandella cites one example on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Dec. 5, 2008.

Dan Rather, the former “CBS Evening News” anchor, complained about the months in office the lame duck president had.

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“We can’t afford to waste an hour, much less a day or a week or a month,” said Rather. “And this business of being a lame-duck president and saying, you know, ‘Adios. I’m going to the ranch. I’m just not going to do very much during this period.’ We can’t afford it.”

Rather was no friend of Bush. He was famously pushed out of CBS News with producer Mary Mapes, in 2005, after running a discredited story on Bush’s service in the Air National Guard in the 1970s. The story ran — and was discredited — right before the November 2004 presidential election.

Yet today, in 2017, there is no urgency in the media’s voice after empowering Trump as soon as possible, Ciandella told LifeZette. Obama’s pre-inaugural decisions made in the transition of 2008-2009 were treated as god-like proclamations thrown down from Mount Olympus.

On Nov. 21, 2008, ABC News’ Betsy Stark lavished praise upon Obama’s announced treasury secretary pick, Timothy Geithner, as an antidote to the current “lame-duck administration” of George W. Bush, Ciandella found.

Now, Obama is on his way out, and the mainstream media is trying to prolong the seconds he has left.

meet the author

Political reporter, LifeZette. Indiana University journalism grad. Boston U. business grad. Former Indiana, Alabama statehouse reporter, Daytona Beach editorial writer.

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