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Media strafe Obama from both sides as he grapples with Syria decision

August 31, 2013

By Howard Kurtz

Aug. 22, 2013: President Obama speaks at the University at Buffalo, in Buffalo, N.Y.AP

Aug. 22, 2013: President Obama speaks at the University at Buffalo, in Buffalo, N.Y.AP

The media have launched a preemptive strike against President Obama.

Here’s how it usually works: A president confers with his team, reaches a military decision, makes his case to the public—and wins support from some commentators and opposition from others.

But in the case of Syria, Obama is getting hammered from the right and the left, even though he hasn’t done anything so far.

This is in part because of our hyper-partisan environment and in part because the media are hypersensitive to the well-deserved criticism that they blew it during the run-up to the Iraq war.

That, combined with the 24/7 pressures on the opinion-mongering business, is an explosive mixture.

The bottom line: the president is damned if he bombs and damned if he doesn’t.

Some on the left, like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, are urging Obama to fully consult with Congress before taking action. But others, like Salon’s Patrick Smith, go further.

“The fabrications and duplicity put before us as Washington prepares to ‘respond’ to the latest savagery in Syria are so strangely formed that it is hard to follow the bouncing ball,” he writes. “The Obama people have changed their story diametrically before our eyes, casting aside all consistency, self-evidently making it up as they go along.”

The media, meanwhile, “are delivering the goods with irresponsible single-source stories dressed up as responsible multiple-source stories,” Smith says. “When was it that journalists began thinking of themselves as national security operatives? It is getting unbearable, this errand-boy act in the face of power. If journalists did their jobs properly we would get into fewer messes such as Syria and would be more nationally secure.”

Now I have reported extensively on the many press failures in 2002 and 2003, including the lack of skepticism about the Bush administration’s claims and the heavy reliance on official sources who were peddling a line that turned out to be false.

But make no mistake: the press cannot prevent a determined president from going to war. Nor can journalists go to Syria and investigate for themselves whether Bashar Assad used chemical weapons.  Read more at Fox News.

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