In early November, Barack Obama was one sad sack of a president — his agenda repudiated by midterm voters, his political judgment scorned by commentators, his future darkened by a growing belief he might be a one-time president.
In early February, Obama is master of the moment — his polls on the upswing, his political dexterity applauded by pundits, his status as Washington’s dominant figure unchallenged even by Republicans.
This three-month metamorphosis says something about Obama’s survival skills, but the turnabout says even more about the mainstream media: Obama is playing the press like a fiddle.
He is doing it by exploiting some of the most long-standing traits among reporters who cover politics and government — their favoritism for politicians perceived as ideologically centrist and willing to profess devotion to Washington’s oft-honored, rarely practiced civic religion of bipartisanship.
Time’s Mark Halperin has hailed Obama as “magnetic,” “distinguished” and “inspiring” — in one story. ABC’s Christiane Amanpour saw “Reaganesque” optimism and “Kennedyesque” encouragement — all in one speech. Howard Fineman, the former Newsweek columnist who now writes for The Huffington Post, said conductor Obama was now leading a “love train” through D.C.