After reading Jodi Kantor’s much discussed, allegedly critical look at the White House, “The Obamas,” I have to conclude that even those mainstream reporters who want to write a balanced political book no longer know how.
Kantor, a young New York Times reporter, came under heavy fire for the book, especially for her portrayal of Michelle Obama as, in the words of an angry Michelle Obama, “some kind of angry black woman.”
The Obama faithful rewarded Kantor by not buying the book. Although Kantor had received a reported million-dollar contract, “The Obamas” fell out of the Amazon top 1,000 within a month. Amazon readers have given the book nearly as many 1-star reviews, 20, as 5-star reviews, 25.
The people who should have taken offense, however, are the Republicans. For all her implied criticism of the Obama management style, Kantor shares the politics of Barack and Michelle.
The central tension in the book is between an extraordinarily gifted president – “too talented to do what ordinary people do,” says adviser Valerie Jarrett – and the thick-skulled electorate, particularly the Republicans, who fail to see how wise Obama is.
“I think I could do every job on the campaign better than the people I’ll hire to do it,” Obama said during the 2008 campaign, and Kantor takes him at his word.
As Kantor sees it, not only are the Obamas smarter than their predecessors, but they are also more compassionate. Kantor gushes about Barack’s “devotion, so rare in politics, to the under-served.” For reinforcement, Barack is able to count on Michelle for her “moral voice, her moral center.”
The Obama love vibes apparently spread outward. After he sees a man (undoubtedly a Republican) give up his first-class plane seat to a returning warrior, an Obama friend reports that Americans were behaving with a “lot more kindness and altruism since [Obama] had been elected.”
According to Kantor, Obama came to Washington with a political identity as “the Democrat who could work with Republicans.” Obama thought so himself, “I think that over time people respond to civility and rational argument.”
From Kantor’s perspective, all of Obama’s arguments are rational. Of course, he had to repair “a rapidly warming earth.” Of course, terrorists captured abroad were “entitled to speedy and fair trials.” Adds Kantor, “The legal rule was so basic, everyone knew it.”
Of course, the solution to illegal immigration was “so obvious – the model for comprehensive reform had been on the table for years.” Of course, the stimulus was a great idea: “Economists overwhelmingly agreed it had helped.”
The Republican “strategy” in the face of all this wisdom was, incredibly enough, “one of total opposition.” Their response to the question of illegal immigration took on “an increasingly ugly, get-the-foreigners-out tone.”
That tone seemed to be poisoning the air, as proof of which Arizona’s “harsh new law” on illegal immigration was “supported by a majority of Americans.”
Republicans attacked Obama “with the ugliest possible rhetoric.” Republicans in Congress “personally despised Obama.”
After Rep. Giffords was shot, Kantor wondered whether Obama in his Tucson speech would “call out Republicans for using incendiary rhetoric for political gain?”
When the tea-party Congress took its seats, Obama “felt that the Republicans were more extreme than ever, that they wanted to dismantle the entire social contract, the policies and programs that kept the elderly and poor afloat.”
Jodi Kantor is 36 years old. She has lived an Ivy-league life within the Bos-Wash bubble. She gives the impression of never having talked to a real Republican, and that includes Obama’s “favorite pundit,” the Quisling David Brooks.
Kantor’s bibliography has not a single reference to any book or article by a conservative author. As she sees it, the tea-party movement is “eccentric,” the eligibility debate is “wacky,” Obama “was a writer” of such quality that he looked at the media with contempt, and that, yes, Obama’s father left home when Obama was 2 years old.
Kantor just got into political writing a few years back, and it shows. She appears not to have a memory of any political event before 2008.
She overlooks the withering attacks on George – “a village in Texas is missing its idiot” – Bush, not just by the blogosphere, but by Democratic luminaries, the likes of which Obama has never experienced.
“He betrayed this country!” Al Gore shouted during a 2004 campaign rally about Bush. Said Ted Kennedy that same year, “This is the pattern and the record of the Bush administration [on] Iraq, jobs, Medicare, schools, issue after issue – mislead, deceive, make up the needed facts, smear the character of any critics.”
Nor does Kantor seem to understand that conservative voters send their representatives to Congress with the expectation that they will honor the principle of limited constitutional government, a principle, by the way, that was espoused by the founders of the Democratic Party, Jefferson and Jackson.
Kantor’s bubble-vision is on full display when Obama goes to Norway to receive his Nobel Peace Prize. Here, she tells us excitedly, the people truly got Obama.
They had read Obama’s books and were better versed in his work than Americans were. According to David Axelrod, the Norwegians “represented the better angels of our nature.”
Obama felt the love. He told his hosts that his mother taught him “to prize the same sorts of universal, humanist values as the ones extolled by the Nobel committee.”
On leaving Norway, Obama and his friends concluded – as apparently Kantor does too – “The American public just did not appreciate their exceptional leader.”
And yet for all her gushing, Kantor still got spanked by the Ministry of Truth. There is a lesson here, Jodi.