For example, here's Frank Bruni at the New York Times:
He’s [Obama] adopted a strange language of self-effacement, with notes of defeatism, reminding us that “America, as the most powerful country on earth, still does not control everything”; that we must be content at times with singles and doubles in lieu of home runs; that not doing stupid stuff is its own accomplishment.Do you see what he did there? He admits that what President Obama is saying is true. But its not "savvy, constructive PR." Jay Rosen rips him (and other journalists) a new one for that mess.
This is all true. It’s in tune with our awareness of our limits. And it reflects a prudent disinclination to repeat past mistakes and overreach.
But that doesn’t make it the right message for the world’s lone superpower (whether we like it or not) to articulate and disseminate. That doesn’t make it savvy, constructive P.R.
Dig it: Obama is speaking truthfully, treating us as adults, and being prudent, but there’s a problem because Bruni wants better P.R. Is this what we need journalists for? He quotes two other journalists, Karen DeYoung and Dan Balz of the Washington Post, making the same point. Obama, they said, was speaking candidly but in no way projected “an image of presidential resolve or decisiveness.”A press corp that values PR skills (i.e., optics) over reality is all the proof we need that they find the President's "infantilization skills" wanting. In other words, they think we're immature and "can't handle the truth." And yes, we should all be offended by that!
This style of analysis is so common among American journalists that it passed by without comment. As your blogger, I cannot allow that. Worrying about image projection and the degree of savviness in the Administration’s P.R., asking “Where are your infantilization skills, Mr. President?”— these are signs of a press corps that can be deeply unserious about international politics.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why many pundits struggle so much with understanding President Obama. He plants himself squarely on the opposite end of that continuum with his "shocking, almost certifiable faith in humanity." He thinks we are adults who are capable of handling the truth and is more interested in being a partner than a Daddy.