The American and European media have been ga-ga, gushing, cynical and sarcastic in covering Barack Obama’s Grand Tour of the Middle East and Europe – sometimes all at the same time.  

In a New York Times op-ed, Einstein Forum director Susan Neiman describes the unmistakably mocking tone several German news magazines took in their coverage of Barack Obama’s impending visit: 

Der Spiegel, the German newsweekly, featured Mr. Obama on its cover, topped by the words “Germany Meets the Superstar” – but the cover was satire, and nasty satire at that. The editors managed to find the ugliest photograph of Mr. Obama ever taken. It caught the senator at a moment that might be exhaustion but looks like conceited smirking. When Der Spiegel featured Mr. Obama on its cover in March, the cover line was “The Messiah Factor.” Must one add that this, too, was not meant to be taken at face value?  

An article by Gerhard Spörl, chief editor of the magazine’s foreign desk both  acknowledges the probability of Obama’s victory (“Anyone who saw Barack Obama at Berlin’s Siegessäule on Thursday could recognize that this man will become the 44th president of the United States”) and warns of the perils to Germany of the candidates outsized ambition (“he wants to lay claim to become the president of the world”) and the “we” in “Yes, we can” and urges his fellow countrymen to “take a further look.” 

And if Obama got his gym shorts in a knot over that New Yorker cover, he’s going to get an aneurysm over this biting satire ridiculing his marked messianic tendencies by The Times of London Washington correspondent Gerard Baker. Here are the opening bits: 

And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.  

The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow.  

When he was twelve years old, they found him in the temple in the City of Chicago, arguing the finer points of community organisation with the Prophet Jeremiah and the Elders. And the Elders were astonished at what they heard and said among themselves: “Verily, who is this Child that he opens our hearts and minds to the audacity of hope?”  

And so it was, in the fullness of time, before the harvest month of the appointed year, the Child ventured forth – for the first time – to bring the light unto all the world. 

The parody ends with the archangel Gabriel joined by a chorus of cherubim and seraphim, “all praising G-d and singing: ‘Yes, We Can.’” 

Meanwhile, American journalists – perhaps their consciences pricked by revelations that journalists donated to Dems over Repubs by a whopping 100:1 ratio, or by McCain’s issuing a pretend press pass to “junior varsity” reporters “left behind” to cover his campaign stateside -  tried to get over their liberal bias and the Obama campaign’s iron-fisted message control, reports Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz: 

After saying little in public during a weekend in Iraq and Afghanistan, Barack Obama met with traveling reporters near Jordan’s Temple of Hercules, a gladiator standing his ground against the media hordes. 

But even as the likes of NBC’s Andrea Mitchell and ABC’s Jake Tapper rose to press the Democratic candidate on Tuesday, television viewers back home heard nothing but faint voices in the wind. The journalists weren’t miked; only Obama’s answers came through loud and clear. 

That may have been unintentional, but it underscored the degree to which Obama has controlled the message – and, more important, the pictures – during his exhaustively chronicled trek across the Middle East and Europe. … 

[R]eporters asked substantive foreign-policy questions in more formal settings. And the three network anchors, whose presence came to symbolize complaints that the media were blanketing the trip as if it were a state visit, earned their paychecks. 

CBS’s Katie Couric repeatedly pressed Obama on why he wouldn’t acknowledge the military success of Bush’s surge in Iraq. ABC’s Charlie Gibson asked about public sentiment that he’s inexperienced and challenged him about changing his position on the status of Jerusalem, questioning whether that was a “rookie mistake.” NBC’s Brian Williams invoked a poll finding that a majority of Americans view him as the riskier choice for president. All three newscasts, whether out of guilt or a sense of fairness, also featured interviews with McCain. 

For his part, McCain inexplicably did little to mount a counteroffensive against the All-Obama-All-The-Time TV and print coverage. Matt Towery, a columnist and former Newt Gingrich campaign chairman, was hardly alone in his despair over the ineptitude of the McCain campaign: 

They knew this week of endless glory for Obama was coming. Their response? They tell McCain to attend a baseball game, hold another boring town-hall meeting, have his photo taken with another Bush, and visit an oilrig. Sounds like the work of strategists bound and determined to destroy their candidate.  

Did it not dawn on the McCain campaign that while Obama was running around trying to play Henry Kissinger, they could have created a major summit of big names to discuss how to deal with the economy? It could have been held somewhere like Omaha. The press would have been obligated to cover every meeting and speech, just as it has with Obama’s world tour.  

While Obama recycled well-worn themes in Europe (“When I first heard this sort of radically optimistic speech in Iowa, I have to confess my American soul was stirred,” writes New York Times columnist David Brooks, adding that “more than half a year on … [t]he golden rhetoric impresses less, the evasion of hard choices strikes one more.”), it was McCain who ended up looking like yesterday’s news.  

“In the television age, the more people who can see [Obama] in the role of commander in chief, the better it is for him,” Jerry Rafshoon, President Jimmy Carter’s media adviser tells the WaPo’s Howard Kurtz, adding that when John McCain was riding around Kennebunkport in a golf cart with Bush 41, “you’re seeing him with his generation, the older generation. They looked like the past.” 

And what about that oil-rig disaster? New York Times columnist mocks – rightfully so – the McCain campaign’s “grand plan to counter Mr. Obama’s Berlin speech with a “Mission Accomplished”-like helicopter landing on an oil rig off Louisiana’s coast”:  

The announcement was posted on even as any American with a television could see that Hurricane Dolly was imminent. Needless to say, this bit of theater was almost immediately “postponed” but not before raising the question of whether a McCain administration would be just as hapless in anticipating the next Katrina as the Bush-Brownie storm watch. 

Finally, The Stiletto wonders why McCain’s confab with the Dalai Lama was not planned to coincide with, or immediately follow, Obama’s Sermon on the Mount in Berlin. Instead, McCain met with the Tibetan spiritual leader on Friday. His tough criticisms of China’s human rights abuses (“it does no service to the Chinese government and certainly no service to the people of China for the U.S. and other democracies to pretend that the suppression of rights in China doesn’t concern us”) would have provided a sharp contrast to Obama’s cursory comments in Berlin about Chinese culpability. And there were great visuals, too (the Dalai Lama patted the senator’s hand and called him his “old friend” in a brief appearance before reporters, reports the WaPo).   

Yes, there was that clever sleight of hand involving a veep announcement that never materialized (second item) but McCain’s campaign gurus should have had all sorts of tricks like that up their sleeves all during Obama’s trip.  

Former McCain political strategist John Weaver tells the WaPo, “McCain lost the week badly, let’s be honest. John [McCain] is still in striking distance, thanks to his own character, biography and memories of the McCain of previous election cycles. But he cannot afford another week like this one.”

Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog, chosen an Official Honoree in the Political Blogs category by the judges of the 12th Annual Webby Awards (the Oscars of the online universe) along with CNN Political Ticker, Swampland (Time magazine) and The Caucus (The New York Times).

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