Dunsmore: 53 days and counting

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(HOST) President Barack Obama has been in office for fifty-two days. But, as commentator Barrie Dunsmore, veteran ABC News diplomatic and foreign correspondent observes this morning, the news media, especially the cable news networks, are already losing patience.

(DUNSMORE) Chinese Chairman Mao’s erudite Foreign Minister Chou En Lai was once asked what he thought of the French Revolution. He answered, "It’s too soon to tell." That’s the extreme version of taking the long view of history. Unfortunately, what we now have in this country is the opposite extreme: the instant analysis of all things political by the national news media, led especially by the all-news cable television networks.

Driven by an insatiable need for material to fill up air-time, the cable networks now devote endless hours to almost any public appearance by President Obama. First they tell us what he’s going to say and trot out a panel of experts to pass judgment. Then we see him say it. After that we are immediately deluged with more so-called experts, who regurgitate what the President has just proposed while highlighting its shortcomings.  Not infrequently, the critics of the President’s plans are those who helped get us into the current the mess in the first place.  

Now, I am not opposed to genuinely balanced news coverage and analysis. But somehow I don’t think that those who drove the economy over the cliff ought to be given sometimes even more time than those who are trying to pick up the pieces. But that’s 24/7 news.

After only 53 days in office it’s rather premature to suggest that Obama’s plans to save the economy are failing. We have known since Election Day that things would get worse before they got better, and they have done so. We also knew that it would take months before the economic stimulus package kicked in.

My concern is that a major problem we are now seeing – especially with the mostly downward gyrations of world stock markets – is not Obama’s economic policies but a stubborn lack of confidence – dare I say fear – among the American people.  And an important contributing factor to that fear is generated by the cable news networks, which every day pump out excess volumes of negativity.

These outlets don’t have huge numbers of viewers, but most newsrooms and brokerage houses are tuned in all day and can’t escape the drumbeat of so much adverse comment. That means Mr. Obama is just going to have to work even harder to get his message across – and to be certain that even when the subject is very complicated – that message is as simple and as clear as he can make it.

And for you news junkies I would offer these thoughts. In deciding which critics to pay attention to, credibility ought to count for something. Their past performance should weigh heavily when you assess advice from business news analysts who were former Wall Street cheer leaders – or from inveterate anti-regulation, anti-tax members of Congress. When I hear such critics, I’m reminded of how British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used to dismiss disparaging comments by her political opponents. She would smile and say, "Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?"

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