Maybe. That’s the answer of American journalist Charles Kaiser. Author of two books, the former journalism professor at Columbia and Princeton universities thinks it is too early to evaluate president’s performance in the Oval Office. Kaiser talks about the influence of Obama’s speech before he was elected the first Afro-American president in American history and criticizes the Washingtonian press: “A great many reporters in Washington are stupid, incompetent or both”.
The author of Full Court Press, a website on media criticism, Charles Kaiser is a former reporter for The New York Times where he worked for eight years. He spent two years at Newsweek magazine as a press critic before writing about media and publishing for The Wall Street Journal. He has also written for New York, The New York Observer, Vanity Fair, The Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post, among other publications.
An avid bike rider, he biked 1,000 miles during three weeks over Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia and Kentucky. By telephone and Yahoo messenger, Kaiser gave this interview from his home, in New York:
Is Obama losing credibility in the US?
Not to me. I remain more optimistic than pessimistic.
He prevented a total collapse of the economy. He passed a huge stimulus package, most of which has not yet taken effect. He is trying to tackle the most difficult and the most important domestic issue in America: health care.
Do you think that the health care reform which took so long to be discussed will finally get an end?
Yes, I think a bill will be passed and signed this year.
So, what's going on with the media? Is the press trying to judge him for the things he didn't promise? Some websites here in Brazil wrote about his "loss of credibility" as well as in the US. Why is this happening?
A great many reporters in Washington, D.C. are stupid, incompetent, or both. The failures of the American press have contributed a great deal to the failures of American democracy.
You have to agree with me that Obama raised the dream of change. That was his slogan.
He has been in office for 9 months. Why should we judge him on the basis of what he has accomplished so far? For the view of an intelligent reporter who does NOT live in Washington, see the New Yorker magazine of 21st September of 2009:
That makes sense. There were people who thought Obama could keep alive the dream of Martin Luther King of rebuilding a free and equal society. In an interview on Larry King Live aired on November 5th of 2008, Martin Luther King III, the oldest son of Luther King didn’t hide his happiness by seeing the first Afro-American president on history. Was the dream real?
We won't know how real the dream was until Obama has completed his term in the Oval Office. Martin Luther King was one of the two or three most important American leaders of the 20th Century. Unfortunately, none of his children is particuarly intelligent.
Is Obama a myth? If he is not a myth, so what is he really? None of the previous presidents had brought such a hope to America like him.
Obama is not a myth. He is an extremely intelligent, pragmatic politician. He is not a radical either. He is the product of the last surviving Democratic machine in America: the Chicago Democratic Machine. In all of these ways, he resembles John Kennedy, who was the product of the Boston Democratic machine. The one thing that makes me most nervous is the possibility that he will emulate Kennedy's and Johnson's disastrous policies in Vietnam.
I see very little difference between Afghanistan and Vietnam. In both cases, we are supporting a deeply corrupt government with not very much support from its own people. Such adventures always fail.
Therefore, Obama's decision to escalate American involvement in the War in Afghanistan is by far the most disappointing thing he has done since he became president.
If you could list the topics we (the media) should cover in, what would be your top five list?
You mean, the top 5 in America or the top 5 in the world?
In America, I would focus on the continuing, and almost total control of Congress by American big business. Money has always been the great corrupter of American democracy, but never more so than it is right now. Every Republican opposing reform of the health care system is doing nothing more than following the orders of the Medical Insurance Companies which give them millions and millions of dollars in campaign contributions. The situation with the Pentagon is the same. We spend more on "defense" than all the other countries in the world put together. This is perhaps the greatest of all American scandals. Another thing which gives me pause about Obama is his apparent intention to put in to place some kind of permanent detention without trial for so-called terrorists. Nothing could be more unAmerican or more unconstitutional than that. If I could give Obama one piece of advice, it would be to emulate President Eisenhower--in his willingness to stand up to the generals in the Pentagon and reject their advice. >So far, on Afghanistan, he has failed to do that.
Back to that topic of the construction of that old dream of Luther King, in the same interview, rev. Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition, mentioned a comparison made by young people, specially the white evangelicals. Some polls show that Obama won 32 percent of this group whose age is between 18 and 29. In other words, they thought he was a kind of Messiahs or Moses. Now, the media treat him like a sinner. What happened?
He was never the Messiah. And as I tired to explain above, the Washington media is a completely unreliable barometer of who anyone really is. Pat Robertson, by the way, is one of the most dangerous fools of our time.
How do you evaluate the coverage of first lady Michele Obama? Was the media trying to make her a new Mrs. Kennedy?
Like Mrs. Kennedy, Mrs. Obama is a stylish and extremely intelligent first lady. So I suppose some of those comparisons are appropriate.
Obama, one of the most popular presidents on earth, said >at a lunch at the Group 20 summit in London held on 9th April of 2009 that the title belongs to Lula. However, that title doesn’t apply to our president. At least it is what our media thinks about Lula. Does the same thing happen with Obama? What does the American media think about Lula?
I would say most of the American media is quite ignorant of what Lula has accomplished. We are sadly, famously ignorant about the leaders of most foreign countries.
Did the media buy the slogan Yes we can?
The media was certainly intoxicated by the story of a black, freshman Senator, catapulting himself from obscurity with a single speech before the Democratic Convention of 2004. In fact, he wasn't even a Senator yet when he gave that speech.
So, can we?
We won't be able to give an intelligent answer to that question at least until the end of Obama's first four years in office. The answer right now remains "maybe."