Thoughts on Media and Government and Obama and Bush and More

The White House Correspondent's Dinner was held over the weekend (video here). Washington's annual glamour event - and a fine example of that genre of events fondly and inevitably called 'nerd proms' by those who attend - was not without its detractors. Tom Brokaw, for one, had some harsh things to say in a recent Politico interview:

"Last year, Brokaw became one of the biggest critics of the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner after he saw Washington buzzing around and about the troubled Hollywood actress, who was a guest of Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren.
"The breaking point for me was Lindsay Lohan,” Brokaw told POLITICO during a recent interview in his office in the NBC News Rockefeller Plaza headquarters in New York. “She became a big star at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Give me a break.”

The veteran TV newsman’s vocal dissent after the dinner in 2012 was notable for a number of reasons.

First, Brokaw’s industry stature made him the most notable media figure to criticize an annual event so precious to many of his colleagues in the press corps. Second, Brokaw has standing beyond his long tenure as the “Nightly News” anchor — he was once a White House correspondent during the Watergate era. And lastly, his critique was purposeful, public and unpredictable; he made a point to, seemingly out of nowhere, bash the WHCD on “Meet the Press” just one week after the soiree, saying it was “time to rethink” the occasion since it, in his words, “separates the press from the people that they’re supposed to serve, symbolically.”"

Bravo Mr. Brokaw. Everything about a fancy dinner where the most visible member of a government chums it up with the most prominent members of the media seems off in a society where that media, whose voice is guaranteed by nothing less than a constitution, is supposed to act as a, and sometimes the, major safeguard against that government.

Another event this week, the opening of the Bush library, also put the relationship between government and the media in the spotlight, albeit in a slightly more subtle way. In short, and in a theme which I saw play out in a number of blog posts and articles this week, it seems like the media likes the ideas and policies of the current administration, but not the man behind them. In a complete reversal, the Bush years saw a broad dislike of policies coupled with a fondness for the man.

In a related development, it seems that the Bush legacy is started to take shape, and may be more favorable than some had supposed it would be, as the juxtaposition with the current 'cold' president has reminded people that Bush at least had his heart in the right place.

Of course, especially with respect to the Bush years, these themes may be a bit simplified and are pretty big generalizations. Some liked the policies (and think there could be a positive legacy), while some didn't (and don't). However, and as Bush himself often predicted, it is certainly true that time has painted a different picture of him than was being created while he was in office. Two lessons seem apparent here. First, Bush may have been more complicated than many ever gave him credit for. Secondly, the same may be true of the media.

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