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Newspaper coverage of Obama vs. Previous Inaugurals

My media column in today's Rocky Mountain News compared how much coverage the News and the Denver Post provided in the pre-inaugural week for the most recent inauguration, versus Clinton in 1993 and Bush in 2001 (which like 2009, featured a change of party). Since the Obama inauguration was said to be "historic," I also examined coverage of two other inaugurations which had some similarities (in terms of obvious historicaly character) with 2009: JFK in 1961, and Reagan in 1981. The results don't provide evidence of a pro-Democratic bias, since Bush 2001 and Clinton 1993 were about equal in quantity of coverage, as measured by the number of staff-written stories. Indeed, the 1961, 1981, 1993, and 2001 inaugurals were about equal in terms of coverage. These were dwarfed by the amount of coverage for Obama 2009.

Donny:
Why should more coverage mean he's a "media favorite"? As you concede in the article, it could just be that this is the most historically important election of the last century. So why conclude with reference to the Right's narrative of Obama being a media darling?
1.24.2009 6:39pm
Joe Hunley (mail) (www):
I don't think the reference to "Media Darling" is so much associated with the "Amount" of coverage, as to the Content of the coverage which many found to be Bias!
1.24.2009 6:58pm
Steven Lubet (mail):
Perhaps the newspapers covered the Obama inauguration for the same reason the millions of people went to Washington and stood outside in the cold. How many people attended the Kennedy, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, or Bush II inaugurations? Maybe it really was historic in a way that few other inaugurations have been.

Your argument for the historic nature of the Reagan inauguration could just as easily be made for the Carter inauguration -- our "long national nightmare" was over and we we once again had an elected president. I don't recall too much media hoopla, however.
1.24.2009 7:05pm
Norman Bates (mail):
the most historically important election of the last century
Why stop there. Inauguration of the Chosen One, the Obama, is the most important event in the history of civilization. It ranks next to or equals the Big Bang in significance. Only crabbed, right-wing lunatics can fail to see this.
1.24.2009 7:06pm
frankcross (mail):
It may also be that Jackie Robinson has received more press attention than comparable players. You might want to check that.
1.24.2009 7:09pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
And here I figured it was a cable news driven thing. You now have multiple channels that need to fill all hours of the day with meaningless drivel between the commercials. A change in leadership seems like the perfect sort of item to fit the bill.

What I think would be a much better hypo, the Hudson river crash occurs Tuesday at 2:30pm, how does the media respond?
1.24.2009 7:21pm
Houston Lawyer:
The infatuation of the press with Obama is about the only thing historic going on here. So much faith vested in a man of so little accomplishment. It's Ok though, because he has that much faith in himself.

I reassured a concerned gentleman in the gun store today that we will survive this and it might even prove to be entertaining. The press may soon be on the same footing as a woman scorned.

It will be oh so much fun when all the Obama worshipers wake up and realize that he is just a man.
1.24.2009 7:26pm
What? (mail):
This strikes me as the dumbest attempt at empirical testing yet.

The Jackie Robinson comment above gets the whole thing in a nutshell.
1.24.2009 7:29pm
corneille1640 (mail):
re: Mr. Kopel's claim, in his Rocky Mountain News column, that Reagan's inauguration was more "historic" than FDR's.

That's a defensible position, but one needs to take account of two potential counterarguments:

1. Mr. Kopel observes, correctly, that FDR campaigned on a rather "conservative" platform quite unlike what his New Deal would become. My question, however, is whether between FDR's election and his assumption of office, the scope of his new plans were announced, so as to justify one calling FDR's inauguration "historic."

2. The assertion that Reagan's election was more "historic" than FDR's benefits from hindsight--what Reagan actually accomplished--just as much as any argument that FDR's inauguration was more historic.

3. Didn't Carter initiate certain forms of deregulation, the spirit of which Reaganites would later enact? In other words, maybe Reagan's campaign was not as historic as Mr. Kopel suggests in his comparison with FDR's campaign.
1.24.2009 7:32pm
HoyaBlue:
frankcross wins this.
1.24.2009 7:32pm
Sure, it's just press infatuation . . .:
I mean, there's nothing else historic going on here. It's not like he's BLACK or anything. Otherwise, it's just like Reagan getting elected . . .

HOw do you guys keep a straight face when you write nonsense like that?
1.24.2009 7:34pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Maybe I'm just young enough that I find Obama being black irrelevant. I can understand why boomers and older would find it a big deal, but I just shrug. I find the entire political class to be abhorrent and in that Obama is undistinguished from his peers.
1.24.2009 7:37pm
Sure, it's just press infatuation . . .:
Or maybe, Soronel, you're just historically naive enough to find Obama being black irrelevant. And that's the nicest explanation I can give. I'm pretty young, and I find it unfathomable that anyone of any age in this country can honestly make that statement. Less than a half century ago (in fact, within the President's lifetime) it would have been illegal for his parents to get married in much of the country. And now, 40 years after MLK was assassinated, America has elected a black man with a funny, foreign name to be President. Regardless of your opinion of him or his politics, it is an historic occassion and a sign of how far our country has come in such a short time.

Can you understand the relevance now? If not, I suggest you spend some time studying the civil rights movement and do some math to figure out just how recent it all was.
1.24.2009 7:49pm
nicestrategy (mail):
Um, 1.8 Million people showed up.

This is a moment of national crisis that dwarfs the challenges of 1981 or 1961. As for 1932, the Depression had been going on for years. This time, we are 1 year into a downturn and only a few months after the financial system nearly collapsed. As it still could, as trillions more in losses are unveiled in the coming months.

After 9/11, Bush had 90% approval ratings because most of the Democrats rallied around the President out of a natural inclination towards unity during crisis.

Good to see reciprocity from the GOP. Oh, wait.
1.24.2009 7:52pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
I find it no more relevant than the fact that two women have now been nominated for VP, even though both lost. I do hope that Palin doesn't turn into a bitter old harpy.

As for Obama, just as with every winner he rode a major streak of serindepity and it will now be interesting to see what he can make of it. But it it wasn't Obama now it would have been someone, sometime, and that I really don't see as having any lasting significance.
1.24.2009 7:56pm
Blar (mail) (www):
It's not about the media - Obama's inauguration also got more attention from the American people. Compare, for instance, the number of blog posts on Obama's inauguration with the number of blog posts on previous inaugurations (correcting, of course, for population growth).
1.24.2009 9:20pm
glangston (mail):
The media is helping Obama keep his promise to avoid any divisive actions and keeping things low-key.
1.24.2009 9:36pm
byomtov (mail):
Maybe I'm just young enough that I find Obama being black irrelevant.

Maybe youth isn't the most important factor here.
1.24.2009 9:43pm
second history:
Soronel:

Just becuase he swore an oath to support and defend a Constitution that at one time considered him 3/5 a person--no, nothing historic about that.
1.24.2009 9:48pm
Cleland:
Pedantry: Why has the word "Inaugural" become a noun? Shouldn't we use "Inauguration"?
1.24.2009 9:53pm
Philip Huff (mail) (www):
Just for the record, the Constitution never "considered" a slave to be three-fifths of a person. It did direct that each slave be counted as three-fifths of a person for purposes of apportionment--but that's a very different concept.

More to the point, the three-fifths clause never addressed free blacks at all.
1.24.2009 10:02pm
MatthewM (mail):
Obama's election is of historical interest, but historical interest does not make something important just by itself. The fact that the U.S. did in fact elect a black man president in and of itself shows that the election is of less present interest -- it's not some kind of bizarre anomoly anymore that could never be imagined, it's how this country works now. As Shelby Steele has noted, people who are in ecstasy over Obama's election are not acting post-racially, but instead have race first and foremost in their minds -- which is a retrogade tendency in the extreme.

Oh, and Nicestrategy, the patriotic democrats rallied around their country, the troops, their flag and their president when the U.S. was on the verge of losing the war in Iraq, and supported the surge strategy instead of advocating ignominious defeat. Not.
1.24.2009 10:19pm
David Warner:
The election of a Black President was the Boomer Apollo and like everything else the Boomers have done, they're going to make sure that the rest of us know all about it. Then again, we've gotten pretty good at ignoring them at this point, which isn't very good news for newspapers run by them.
1.24.2009 10:54pm
Constantin:
Um, 1.8 Million people showed up.

No they didn't.

This is a moment of national crisis that dwarfs the challenges of 1981 or 1961.

No it isn't.
1.24.2009 11:04pm
one of many:
Missing from the analysis in the comments is any mention of the changing role of newspapers in public life. The newspaper industry (and other 'old media') changed far more between 2009 and 2001 than it did between 2001 and 1993 (or even 2001 and 1981). Newspapers are struggling to find a successful niche in the current information environment, this is going to cause variation from past precedent merely in itself.

One can get into a chicken-egg argument about cause and effect, but at this point at least some part of any variation from past practices should be attributed to the changing role of newspapers in society.
1.24.2009 11:33pm
Dave N (mail):
David Warner,

I hate to nitpick because you usually have very interesting, cogent posts--but President Obama is at the END of what is traditionally referred to as the Baby Boom--and is, in fact, our third Baby Boomer President (Clinton and GWB being the other two).

Demographers usually count the Baby Boom as 1946 to 1964. So while the President's inauguration may be an example of Baby Boomer narsicism, it is not the first.

I suspect we will have Baby Boomer Presidents for the next 20 years or so (President Obama is only 47--but then again, President Clinton was 46 at the time of inaguruation).

As to the historic nature, I agree that President Obama's inauguration is historic--but so was President Kennedy's. Anti-Catholicism was very real even in 1960--and only 32 years before Kenendy's election, Democrat Al Smith lost his Presidential bid (though a strong argument can be made that his religious faith was not a decisive factor in the election).
1.24.2009 11:35pm
Justin (mail):
Beyond the obvious stuff that has already been stated regarding Obama's election, Kopel's "analysis" regarding Reagan's analysis is [censored]. Reagan didn't run on any more of a radical platform than anyone else.
1.24.2009 11:48pm
LM (mail):
Dave N,

He means the event is more significant to boomers, not that Obama is a boomer. But give him a pass. I agree with you, he's usually very cogent. This is just his BDS showing.
1.24.2009 11:49pm
Dave N (mail):
LM,

But Obama IS a boomer (as am I. Barack Obama is the first President younger than me, though only by a few months--So get off my lawn).

I do agree with him that Baby Boomers, as a group, are the most narcisistic generation in history--though the GenXers are giving the Boomers a run for their money.
1.25.2009 12:04am
Jeff Walden (www):
Maybe I'm just young enough that I find Obama being black irrelevant.

Or maybe, Soronel, you're just historically naive enough to find Obama being black irrelevant.


I'd say it's not relevant for purposes of judging President Obama or his policies, and claiming that this constitutes historical naiveté itself is a demonstration of historical naiveté. Wasn't it Martin Luther King who dreamed that people "would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character"? Until we can ignore the race of our Presidents when evaluating them or their policies, racism (albeit a much weaker and less immediately destructive form than historically, but racism nonetheless) will continue to prevail.
1.25.2009 12:05am
Anon anon:
Obama is really, really popular. Bush was really unpopular. Obama's election represents racial progress (to the commenter who wrote: "people who are in ecstasy over Obama's election are not acting post-racially, but instead have race first and foremost in their minds" - I suppose only by electing a white man could we have shown our ability to overcome our racist past... really?). Obama's election represents a generational change. The political issues facing the nation are of great moment.

Whatever your political views, it should be clear, as an objective matter, why there's intense media interest in the new president. Your comparisons to Reagan, claims that racism is over, claims that technically Obama is a boomer just like W., etc. just come off as pathetic.
1.25.2009 12:18am
Visitor Again:
Our Prez says to get over childish things. So, to quote Justice Scalia, get over them. And to paraphrase Chief Justice Roberts, the way to get over them is to stop doing them. Put your rulers away.
1.25.2009 12:23am
LM (mail):
Dave,

A lot of people consider Obama post-Boomer, and I think DW may be among them. I have no idea what the cutoff is for Boomer/GenX/GenY.... I'm such a dyed-in-the-wool boomer I define my whole environment by narcissistic projection. I claim everything and everyone I like. Which means for my purposes Obama is a Boomer. He's also Jewish and he's not at all happy with his Comcast service. For example.
1.25.2009 12:31am
Dave N (mail):
LM,

You early boomers want to cast us late boomers aside and treat us with derision just like our older siblings did. Which makes sense since our older siblings, tautologically, are at least "earlier" boomers.

Sorry about your cable though. Have you considered satellite?
1.25.2009 12:39am
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):
Oblama should have given all that Inaudible Money away to poor people instead of having all those big parties. Think of The Homeless and The Children. He could have made an investment in the country's future- for the generations to come.
1.25.2009 12:47am
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

that at one time considered him 3/5 a person


this was done in opposition to southern slave owners.
1.25.2009 12:49am
RPT (mail):
Glenn W. Bowen:

that at one time considered him 3/5 a person

this was done in opposition to southern slave owners."

Who wanted to consider the slaves to be worth nothing at all to anyone except their owner? That's real progress there.
1.25.2009 12:57am
derhahn (mail):
Just becuase he swore an oath to support and defend a Constitution that at one time considered him 3/5 a person..

If you're gonna get technical, it only consider's half of him to be 3/5 a person.
1.25.2009 12:58am
RSwan (mail):
Actually, the southerners wanted to count all the slaves as a whole person to help boost there count in the House of Representative. The northerners didn't want them to count at all so as to minimize the southerners in the House. The 3/5 was a compromise.
1.25.2009 1:10am
Matthew K:
Philip Huff:

Just for the record, the Constitution never "considered" a slave to be three-fifths of a person. It did direct that each slave be counted as three-fifths of a person for purposes of apportionment--but that's a very different concept.

More to the point, the three-fifths clause never addressed free blacks at all.

Thanks for getting this right.
1.25.2009 1:10am
Dave N (mail):
RPT,

You show your historical ignorance with your comment. The "3/5 clause" was insisted on by the northern states in the Constitutional Convention. The Southern states wanted the slaves counted fully, so as to increase their Congressional representation.
1.25.2009 1:10am
John (mail):
This post ignores the possibility that the press has become more biased toward democrats in general, and The One in particular, since past "historic" elections.
1.25.2009 1:12am
BGates:
if it wasn't Obama now it would have been someone, sometime
It almost certainly would have been Colin Powell 12 years ago, if he had wanted the job. Running against the hapless Senate lifer Bob Dole, Clinton didn't break 50%; Powell was viewed as the architect of the most lopsided victory in American military history, and would have put the black vote in play to say the least. No anti-black racist was going to pull the lever for the draft-dodging, dope-smoking, etc etc etc; they would have sat the race out. Their loss weighed vs the apolitical, African-Americans, and progressives who wanted to make history? Powell would have won 45 states.

It would have been interesting to see whether the media was more committed to reelecting the "first black President", or electing the first black President, but I don't think they could have swung it back to Bubba.

So I'm not real excited over something that only Mrs Colin Powell kept from happening in 1996.
1.25.2009 1:41am
David Warner:
"This is just his BDS showing."

Guilty as charged. I am working on it, but not really hard.

Obama is Xer all the way (as I've argued elsewhere on this blog, but I'm too lazy to search it up) due in large part to his being out of the country for all the formative Boomer events. Even if he is late Boomer, that part of the generation tends to have some more sense, if less, um, imagination. The Boomer vanguard decided during those events that they really, really wanted a black President and they may have had one already if they hadn't simultaneously decided to hate Republicans.

The Democratic Party hasn't always been, you know, exactly progressive on racial issues, although they like to pretend otherwise these days.
1.25.2009 1:51am
Dave N (mail):
David Warner,

Still hate to quibble. I have ALWAYS considered myself a Boomer (though close to the end). According to Wikipedia (an useful source for trivia of this nature), the President lived in Indonesia from ages 6 to 10 (1967 to 1971).

I will state as someone who never left the United States in the 1960s that much of that decade's turbulance when right over my head--and as the child of a college professor I would be more likely than my peers to be aware of campus strife, though I only have the vaguest memories of it.

I do remember Robert Kennedy's assassination and the moon landing. While the former may have gone unnoticed by Indonesian school children, I doubt the latter did.

The President was back in the United States for the trauma of Watergate (of which I have many memories) and the ineptitude of the the 39th President.
1.25.2009 2:24am
LM (mail):

Obama is Xer all the way (as I've argued elsewhere on this blog, but I'm too lazy to search it up)

I'll vouch.
1.25.2009 3:18am
Kirk:
Barack Obama is the first President younger than me.

Oh good grief! Why must you bring that aspect up? I've put up with the shock and surprise of having doctors younger than I am, and pastors, and even airline pilots. But now this--the least you could do is not remind me how much older I'm getting! :-)
1.25.2009 5:00am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
constantin:

1.8 Million people showed up

No they didn't.


The article you cited said this:

the number of people who braved the frigid D.C. weather to watch the historic event could have been anywhere between 800,000 and 3 million, depending on who you talk to.


And the guy who said 800,000 also said that if the crowd was packed tightly, "there could have been 2 million."

And "a Boston University professor who is considered the leading authority on providing crowd estimates" said "nearly 3 million."

So your claim ("no they didn't") is a bit, uh, inflated.

===============
dave n:

Obama IS a boomer


Technically, you're right, but nevertheless I think there are reasons to view his presidency as the first post-boomer presidency. Voters under 30 picked Obama 66%/32%. So he's the first president to be elected, largely, by post-boomers.

And the GOP tried to raise boomer issues (in the form of Ayers, mostly). This strategy fell flat on its face. Even though it worked well last time (swiftboats).

So even though he was born prior to the 1964 cutoff, I think he has a post-boomer persona, and is best understood from that perspective. As anonanon said, "Obama's election represents a generational change." And as lm said: "A lot of people consider Obama post-Boomer." (And warner is correct that this is connected with "his being out of the country for all the formative Boomer events." Although it's really 'many' or 'most,' not "all.")

I think many people perceive it that way. So this tends to become a fact, even though he is theoretically a few years too old.

========================
anon anon:

Obama is really, really popular. Bush was really unpopular.


I think you're the first to mention this. A key factor is that Obama is following someone who is widely viewed as the worst president ever. This understandably adds to the enthusiasm.

========================
bgates:

Running against the hapless Senate lifer Bob Dole, Clinton didn't break 50%


Please don't bother mentioning that Perot got 8.4% of the vote. This is why "Clinton didn't break 50%." (He got 49.2%.)

But I'm glad you raised the issue of who "didn't break 50%." Kopel's analysis compares Obama to JFK, Reagan, Clinton '92, and Bush '00. What's interesting is that only one of those prior winners managed to "break 50%" (in the elections that were cited). Here are the popular vote percentages:

49.7% JFK
50.7% Reagan '80
43.0% Clinton '92 (if half of Perot's votes were allocated to Clinton, Clinton's number would be 52.5%)
47.9% Bush '00
52.9% Obama

So Obama's popular vote is decisively stronger, compared with those prior elections.

And also compared with other elections. Since FDR, Bush I and Ike are the only candidates who managed (when running as a non-incumbent) to exceed the popular vote percentage that Obama got. All the following failed to beat that number (when running as a non-incumbent): Bush II, Clinton, Reagan, Carter, Nixon, JFK, and Truman. They all entered office with weaker numbers (in terms of the popular vote %) than Obama. And Bush II failed to beat 52.9% even when running as an incumbent. (But his 50.7% in 2004 was promptly called a "mandate" by Cheney and lots of other folks. Even though that was a strikingly low number, for a winning non-incumbent; almost every other modern incumbent either beat that number, or lost.)

So Obama's strong popular vote percentage is another reason to consider his inauguration worthy of more coverage.
1.25.2009 6:08am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Obama's election is comparable to Ike's (first election, in 1952). Since FDR, 1952 and 2008 are the only two times that both of the following conditions occurred:

- there is a change in party
- the winner achieved a popular vote of 52.9% or more.

Of course it's interesting to notice that Truman was unpopular at the time.

So it's common to have a swing from one party to the other (that's happened 8 times since FDR), but usually (6/8 of the time) the swing is not strong (the victory was with 50.7% or less). And the swing in 2008 is arguably even stronger than 1952, because the GOP losses in Congress in 2008 exceed the gains they made in 1952. So from this perspective 2008 is the most decisive election since FDR. Another reason why there's lots of excitement and coverage.

Ike, Bush I and Obama are the three presidents since FDR who have won large popular vote victories, when running as a non-incumbent (none of the other non-incumbents beat 50.7%). With Bush I, it was largely because his predecessor was very popular. With Ike and Obama, it was largely because their predecessors were very unpopular.
1.25.2009 6:41am
RPT (mail):
"Dave N:

RPT,

You show your historical ignorance with your comment. The "3/5 clause" was insisted on by the northern states in the Constitutional Convention. The Southern states wanted the slaves counted fully, so as to increase their Congressional representation."

You missed my point. The count was only to increase the representation, not that the slaves would actually be recognized as persons for all purposes relevant to them.
1.25.2009 9:55am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Speaking of Jackie Robinson, Glenn Loury said that when the MLB broke the color barrier, it was with Jackie Robinson.
Let me rephrase that,
JACKIE ROBINSON!!!!
Loury's implication is that this time, we might be getting a utility infielder with a history of choking when there's a man on.

Isn't it interesting how many people continue to promote the 3/5 myth. As if counting slaves for apportionment as one for one would have been better for slaves.
I can't imagine anybody over sixteen who doesn't know better, but the true believers keep hoping.
1.25.2009 9:58am
loki13 (mail):

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.


As Dave N and others have pointed out, but I wanted to make abundantly clear:

1. All free Persons (including free blacks) were to be counted fully.

2. The 3/5 person was a compromise- the Northern states, rightly, believed that slaves, having no vote and not being free, should not be allowed to give the Southern states more political power. The Southern states, worried about the continuation of slavery (see also Art. V, 1808 provision) wanted each slave to have no "real" rights but to be counted fully for purposes of representatives. The final allocation was a compromise, and a short-sighted one at that for the Northern states (giving Jefferson the 1800 election).

That some people on this board use it to argue some incoherent point about progress and Obama shows a basic failure of American History 101. If there's a few things I hope we can agree on:

1. Slavery is bad.
2. The South (pre-Civil War) was bad for owning slaves, and its a good thing they lost.
3. People.... who own people... are the evilest people.... IN THE WORLD.
1.25.2009 10:04am
resh (mail):
Would the media give an American Indian the same fawning coverage, one wonders? That is, would it if the Obama coverage-equation is keenly supposed to be about "history."

I think there's a bit more here to the love-fest. One can start with ideology, mix in some group-think and add from there. Steinbeck via Jung called the syndrome a phalanx. I'll leave it at that.
1.25.2009 10:16am
Boonton (mail) (www):
The problem with any claim of media bias is that one has to put forth what a hypothetically unbiased media would look like. Did hundreds of thousands of people swamp DC, many spending all night out in the cold for the inaugeration of Bush I, W Bush I, II, or even Reagan? If not then wouldn't it biased if a newspaper gave the inaugeration the same amount of coverage?
1.25.2009 10:26am
geokstr:

Loki13:
People.... who own people... are the evilest people.... IN THE WORLD.

Sorry but there are people a lot worse than that on this planet. How about those who saw the heads off little girls because they committed the grevious offense against Allah of going to school? How about others who kill tens of thousands because they wear glasses and are therefore too intellectual? How about the ones who starve millions because they won't collectivize their farms or read your Little Red Book? Or those who use ovens in an attempt to eliminate a whole ethnic group?

Don't get me wrong; claiming to be able to own another human is abhorrent. But I'd rather be owned than dead any day, but hey, that's just my personal druthers.

Although that was a nice takeoff on the the lyrics from a song by one of the looniest people...in the world.
1.25.2009 10:26am
loki13 (mail):
geokstr,

Just to be clear, my use of the superlative (evilEST) was not meant to indicate any ranking on an absolute scale of evil; rather, it was an attempt to keep my words in accord with the song parody.

Anyway, the point is this- it doesn't really matter whether one feels that Hitler, or Pol Pot, or Ted Bundy, or random Islamic militant(tm), or member of the Spanish Inquisition, or Janjaweed militia etc. is more evil than a slave owner.

The point is this- slavery is evil. Can't we just agree on this? It caused untold human suffering, misery, and death (through the slave trade, beatings, and more). That some people misconstrue one of the two most shameful things our nation has done*, and the only one enshrined in our Constitution, to score cheap and incoherent political points is unfathomable to me.

*I'd say that we weren't all that great to the Native Americans either. We have a whole lot to be proud of; but not these things.
1.25.2009 10:42am
geokstr:

John:
This post ignores the possibility that the press has become more biased toward democrats in general, and The One in particular, since past "historic" elections.

No sh*t.

Just imagine if the entire establishment media turned on Obama tomorrow and for the next 8 years deliberately downplayed anything he did right and relentlessly excoriated him at every opportunity. Then they cherrypicked the economic situation, and all the domestic and international events, even "acts of God", to exaggerate everything bad and ignore anything good and attribute it all to Obama's mistakes. Then they attack him and his family personally at every opportunity. Then Hollywood and television produced a slew of movies and shows ridiculing everything about him. And nearly every college professor used his classes as a bully pulpit to slam and slander him in every way possible.

Exactly how popular would Obama be at the end of his second term?

Personally I do not care for Bush or the job he did, but the fact that he is considered the worst president ever by lots of people has much to do with the ideological pounding he's taken by the left, who control most of the opinion-making machinery in this country.
1.25.2009 10:46am
David Warner:
Dave N. and LM,

Thx for the kind words.

"I suspect we will have Baby Boomer Presidents for the next 20 years or so"

And I suspect we've seen the last one. Boomers are good for a lot of things, but alas responsibility is not among them. We'll need more responsibility in our leaders going forward. I'm also guessing that war vets will dominate inordinately for the forseeable future.

Don't be too glum - with McCain's loss, the Silents didn't get any.
1.25.2009 10:48am
Angus:

Just imagine if the entire establishment media turned on Obama tomorrow and for the next 8 years deliberately downplayed anything he did right and relentlessly excoriated him at every opportunity.
I would expect them to do so, just as they did to the Clintons. The press lives off of scandal and bad news, regardless of who happens to be President.
1.25.2009 11:02am
Joseph Slater (mail):
Some of the comments above remind me of the brilliant Steven Colbert line: "I don't see race. People tell me I'm white, and I beleive them. . . "

Beyond that, I lived in D.C. for three inaugurations (the first Bush, Clinton twice) and just missed a third (G. W. Bush), and believe me, the country as a whole is treating this inauguration as a bigger deal. The stories of people taking buses, doing whatever they can to be their on the day . . .

I understand that folks who don't support Obama wouldn't share in the enthusiasm. It's harder to understand how anyone could not see the genuine difference in enthusiasm. And in this case, the media is following more than leading.
1.25.2009 11:08am
Joseph Slater (mail):
be THERE, not "their." Good grief, more coffee!
1.25.2009 11:09am
trad and anon (mail):
I don't think Bush 43's election was perceived by his supporters as nearly as big a deal as Obama's election is by his. The Republicans hated Clinton, but not nearly as much as Democrats hated Bush 43. Bush was elected by a razor-thin margin in an election where he didn't even got a plurality of votes. His party actually lost seats in both houses of Congress. Moreover, he was elected in a time of prosperity: the most significant election issue was the details of the candidates' respective plans to have Medicare pay for prescription drugs. Left and right alike complained that there were no meaningful differences between the candidates. As a result, reaction to Bush's victory among supporters was subdued.

By contrast, Obama was elected with a strong majority in an election where his party took huge majorities in both houses of Congress, so the election is seen by supporters as a decisive break with the past. Obama is phenomenally popular and has been a master of branding: there's a reason his opponents mock him as the "Messiah" or "the One." Moreover, it is a time of enormous historical importance: not only is our nation is in the grips of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, but we also face two hot wars and an ongoing battle against global terrorism. As a result, voters perceived the choice of President as enormously important, much more so than in 2000. And on top of all that, white men have been dominating the field for the past 43 games, and he is the first person to break that streak. The media have written more news on this subject because there is more news to be made.
1.25.2009 12:42pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
One of the things that most distresses me when I look at these things is how so many people seem to turn quantitative questions into boolean true/false ones. Dave's point is that while it was historic, was it 35 times as historic?

Would another inauguration that included hundreds of thousands of ticketed attendees left outside, and thousands trapped in a tunnel for hours, with tempuratures below freezing and no heat, no toilets, and locked, guarded gates preventing them from leaving, have received quite so favorable coverage?

Or compare the coverage of the $43 million Bush inauguration with the coverage of the $150 million Obama inauguration. (Or was it $50 million? Or $130 million? Or is the right measure dollars per person?) But it's not the dollar amount as much as the degree to which the legacy press decried the wasteful profligacy of the Bush inauguration, versus the admirable pomp and celebration of the Obama one.

The point is that while it was historic, both the degree of difference and the quality of the coverage have to be considered too.
1.25.2009 1:18pm
Nathand:
I normally stay out of the political discussions, but when someone says something particularly stupid about baseball I feel compelled to comment.

Jackie Robinson, strictly as a player, is a ton more than a "utility infielder". To me, he rates as the 4th best second baseman of all time, behind only Joe Morgan, Eddie Collins, and Rogers Hornsby. He's clearly a step above the next level (Biggio, Alomar, Sandberg, Lajoie, Gehringer, etc). He's as good a hitter as anyone that ever played the position (excluding Hornsby), and one of the top defenders ever.

In fact, you could argue that Robinson belongs in the same group as the top three. He's got a career peak that puts him in that company - he just loses out on longevity. While the late start to his career obviously isn't his fault, the gap is large enough that it's hard to say he would have been that good that long. He certainly could have done it, though. So, being concervative, I place him 4th. Either way, it's a long, long stretch to "utility infielder".
1.25.2009 1:23pm
David Warner:
Dave N.,

Now that I have work to put off, I got motivated. Irrefutable photographic evidence that Obama is an X'er at this link.

GG refers to the Greatest Generation, or what was the Greatest Generation until the Boomers got a black President elected in a country as backward and racist as this one.
1.25.2009 1:29pm
trad and anon (mail):
Nathand: I think you may have missed the point of Richard Aubrey's comment. Speaking of which:
Isn't it interesting how many people continue to promote the 3/5 myth. As if counting slaves for apportionment as one for one would have been better for slaves.
The point of the complaint about the 3/5 clause is that the alternative they're considering is recognizing free black people as 1 person for purposes of apportionment. The problem is that the state of this country was so bad at the founding that the convention didn't even consider a slavery-free Constitution (and could not plausibly have done so).

I think though that the Constitutional right to import slaves (Art 2, Sec. 9) is a better target.
1.25.2009 1:36pm
anon7382:

But in the 2008 election cycle, overt appeals to racism were absent from respectable discourse.


That's a tough claim to make. I'm not sure what you mean by respectable discourse, but Hillary Clinton tried to triangulate Obama during the primary with her "hard working" quote before WV. Likewise, many of McCain's commercials, especially the "chicks dig Obama" one arguably were straight out of Atwater politics.

None of the many attempts were successful. Just as the attacks against Kennedy weren't successful. But I don't see any way to distinguish the two situations. The attacks on Kennedy were just as "disrespectful" (careful about what you imply here) as the attacks on Obama.
1.25.2009 1:36pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
But in the 2008 election cycle, overt appeals to racism were absent from respectable discourse.


In McCain's first ad he called himself "The American President Americans Have Been Waiting For." As if the other candidate isn't exactly American. It's hard to interpret McCain's words as something other than a claim that a black person named Barack Obama isn't quite as fully "American" as John McCain.

And on 6/27/08 McCain put out an ad showing Obama's face on US currency (video). This was before Obama made the remark about how he "doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills." And that seems to have been the point of the ad.

==============
charlie:

was it 35 times as historic?


Where did you get the number "35?"
1.25.2009 2:15pm
John M. Perkins (mail):
My first impression on the newspaper coverage (the Macon Telegraph had a collectable poster) is that newspapers are struggling to survive and any excuse to create a special issue will be jumped at. Here, I would equate the inaugeration coverage with the Warner Robins Little League World Series Championship. These are issues that will be collected and given to children and grandchildren.

Eight years ago, the Telegraph was much healthier.

News no longer sells. The event, the celebration sells.
1.25.2009 2:16pm
Floridan:
Dave Warner: "I'm also guessing that war vets will dominate inordinately for the forseeable future"

An interesting guess since in the past five presidential elections the winner had no active military service and beat an opponent who had served in the military in a combat zone.

Seems to me like the American people consider other qualities more important than being a war vet.
1.25.2009 2:49pm
David Warner:
Floridian,

"Seems to me like the American people consider other qualities more important than being a war vet."

Hope you're right, but the Iraq War vets are getting better press than any since WWII and they're practically deified by many who don't like the Press. A key element of the Rahmulus D resurgence involved recruiting vets to run for the D's to blunt R attacks on the patriotism, or lack thereof, of the left. Looks like that worked.

And when vets are out in force protesting against you, as they were against Kerry, I'm not sure that's a valid data point.
1.25.2009 5:55pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
The number of people in that inaugural crowd was not counted but their number was estimated. The Professor at Arizona State appears to have been the most scientific and it’s interesting that the satellite images show clots of people with plenty of open space between them.

What I found interesting is that the number that the Washington Post cited, 1.8 million, was supposed to be a National park Service estimate. But the Park Service got into political trouble for debunking politically inflated numbers so this is what they said:

AP: "Park service spokesman David Barna said the agency did not conduct its own count. Instead, it will use a Washington Post account that said 1.8 million people gathered on the U.S. Capitol grounds, National Mall and parade route, he said."



So the Washington Post quoted a statistic taken from a source that used the Washington Post as the source.
1.25.2009 6:47pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Nathand.
Missed it big time, you did.
1.25.2009 8:38pm
Nick056:
I think the relevance of the 3/5ths compromise is that it suggests that our founders were comfortable with counting black slaves as 3/5ths of a full citizen. Yes, the compromise wasn't expressly an evaluation of slaves' personhood and of their humanity, but the phrase "3/5ths of a person" reveals and symbolizes a status quo that context can't dispel.
1.25.2009 8:49pm
PC:
Things like this might be why electing a black man president is such a big deal.
1.25.2009 9:01pm
AC:
While Obama's election certainly is of some symbolic historical note, it doesn't seem to me to be of great historical significance. The Civil Rights movement was historic, MLK was a historic figure, school desegregation was historic - all of these changed history in some significant way. Given all that came before, the election of a black President was inevitable - just as the election of a Hispanic or an Asian in the future is inevitable.

Perhaps one's perspective depends on when and where one grew up. I grew up during the 1960's in a hotbed of "the 60's movement" in California. I never considered race to be a big deal and figured most educated racists would eventually just die of old age if they didn't adapt their views before then -- it appears enough have now done so to allow a black President to be elected.

We've had black Supreme Court Justices, Representatives, Senators, and Presidential candidates at the primary level for many years. The previous black Presidential candidates that come to mind (Jackson, Sharpton, and Chisholm) were quite liberal and it seems that they would have failed for that reason alone independent of their race.

At about 12% of the population, one would expect one out of about every eight Presidents to be black - perhaps a few less if one considers demographics (education, criminal convictions, etc) which set a practical minimum bar for the office. Obama is the 44th POTUS and going back seven Presidents takes us to LBJ who was the 37th POTUS. Interestingly, this corresponds with the height of the Civil Rights movement.

What seems more remarkable is that we've never had a female President even though females represent about half the population. It seems if Obama's election has major historic significance in and of itself, its historic significance will be overwhelmed by the election of the the first female President.
1.25.2009 9:51pm
David Warner:
PC,

Who knew? There are other sources of disagreement than ignorance.

"Injustice, poverty, slavery, ignorance --
these may be cured by reform or revolution.
But men do not live only by fighting evils.
They live by positive goals, individual and collective,
a vast variety of them, seldom predictable, at times incompatible."

- Isaiah Berlin
1.25.2009 9:52pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
money:

So the Washington Post quoted a statistic taken from a source that used the Washington Post as the source … the number that the Washington Post cited, 1.8 million, was supposed to be a National park Service estimate


As usual, you're making things up. You're suggesting that WP got their number from the Parks Service. But they didn't:

the count [was] a "collective decision" reached Tuesday inside the city's joint operations command center, where dozens of local and federal agencies were helping to coordinate security and traffic management.


And the Parks Service said this:

We do firmly believe that the crowd that was there was the biggest crowd ever


More crowd estimates are here and here. There's no question it was one of the largest crowds in DC history, if not the largest.

The Professor at Arizona State appears to have been the most scientific


I disagree. The IHS Jane's analysis appears to have been the most scientific.
1.25.2009 11:12pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Nick.
That 3/5 thing is too good to let go.
The nation, parts of it, anyway, were comfortable keeping large numbers of blacks as SLAVES.
The 3/5 thing was a way of counting them for congressional power. In the context, meaningless. To the unwary, a great, simplistic, wrong point.
1.26.2009 6:26am
lawnchair reactionary:
Obama isn't a baby boomer because his mother, born on an Army base in 1942, qualifies as a baby boomer in some books.

If you define baby boomers as those being a part of the "baby boom", then Obama surely does not qualify. He has no older siblings, he never had to worry about being drafted, Watergate happened before he was a teenager.
1.26.2009 9:47am
Tracy Johnson (www):
You are probably correct, the coverage is about the same, however the quantity of adoring metaphors was not proportional.
1.26.2009 10:01am

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