James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Optimistic groundhogs, governors and economists: Jindal’s losing presidential campaign to begin after Obama address

Posted by James McPherson on February 24, 2009

CNN reports that President Barack Obama will try to “mix sober talk with an upbeat bottom line” in an address to a joint session of Congress tonight. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has been tapped to provide the GOP answer to Obama’s and thereby take another step toward launching his own losing 2012 presidential bid–assuming his speech tonight doesn’t kill his hopes by falling as flat as Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’s Democratic response to George Bush’s State of the Union Address back in January 2008 (a speech the dropped her from serious vice presidential hopeful to possible second or third choice for secretary of Health and Human Services).

Though it’s too early for presidential predictions, I don’t see how Jindal can win. He’ll either be seen as a GOP attempt to “copy” a successful Obama, and will therefore lose the general election to Obama, or, if Obama falters, Jindal will be rejected in the Republican primary because he reminds voters too much of Obama. We can’t know what Obama’s future will look like four years from now, but we can guess that Jindal’s doesn’t look good for 2012.

However positive Obama’s tone, the news he delivers tonight likely will make Punxsutawney Phil look like an raging optimist. After all, the groundhog predicted “only” six more weeks of winter. The economic winter will continue much longer (despite some optimistic predictions by economists), with the Dow yesterday falling to about half of its high point. All in all, Phil might have some good advice to Jindal: Keep your head down.

Incidentally, if you want to see where the stimulus money is scheduled to go, and when, the government has launched a new website, www.recovery.gov with a timeline. You can also read the entire bill for yourself, if you have the time and determination to get through it. One weird thing about Recovery.gov–after you click on a link to exit the site and read the bill, you’re greeted with a message saying, “Thank you for visiting our site. … We hope your visit was informative and enjoyable.”

Two things bug me about that message. First, it’s not “their” site; it’s ours. They work for us. Second, the visit is unlikely to be “enjoyable,” at least for anyone who isn’t getting a bunch of money in a hurry. For the record, I’m not. And probably you aren’t, either.

Next-day update: Maybe Jindal won’t be a candidate in 2012 after all, after last night’s dismal speech. But American attention spans are short, and he does have plenty of time to recover.

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9 Responses to “Optimistic groundhogs, governors and economists: Jindal’s losing presidential campaign to begin after Obama address”

  1. Darrin said

    Great, so the Republicans push some dude who advocates the Death Penalty and chemical castration for child molesters. Child molesters are built, not born. If we could just put all our efforts into proper child raising, half of the problems we face today would fade out. This is also a man that has claimed to have removed a demon from a lady. Check it out on youtube. The fact that Jindal has been given a platform is not only frightening, it’s a step back into humanity’s barbaric past.

  2. I wouldn’t trust those rose-colored-glasses economists one whit. Recovery? Yeah, for the other cultures and species on the planet. But not for the industrial economy, thankfully.

  3. James McPherson said

    And the economists have done such a bang-up job, thus far. Besides, no two of them seem to agree on anything. So why is it they’re making so much more money for their opinions than we are?

  4. “So why is it they’re making so much more money for their opinions than we are?”

    One hypothesis: So many of us keep buying their shtick. So they keep shoveling it our way. Optimism sells way better than reality (e.g., films, TV, even books).

  5. James McPherson said

    “Optimism sells way better than reality.”

    Indeed. That’s at least part of the reason that Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Obama all won. And, incidentally, why so many American movies have happy endings with a bunch of people applauding the main character(s).

  6. joybacon said

    I’m skeptical of you linking to CNN stories now, because I can’t help but think you’re just trying to beat the system.

  7. James McPherson said

    Who, me? 🙂 You’re right, of course: Today was the 17th in a row that I’ve had at least 100 views, and on most of those days the majority of the visitors came via CNN. My justification, naturally, is that in this ongoing experiment I’m trying to boost “circulation” so that people might read a variety of other things that I have to offer. For example, a couple of days ago CNN stories apparently directly brought 145 readers to my site. Thirty-one more views seemed to come as a result of search engine search terms. But I had 266 page views that day, looking at 25 different posts, so apparently some of those readers hung around.

    Increasing numbers isn’t the only thing that matters, of course, or I could simply keep doing what I did as an experiment back on Sept. 11. That day was my second-busiest ever in terms of traffic (topped only by the 876 views I got Nov. 13, in that case with a lot of CNN help). The week of Sept. 11 and the next remain my busiest weeks, but the idea of repeating that titillating technique bugs me more from a moral perspective than does using stories that do relate to something I think worth saying, anyway. I’d obviously never make it in advertising or at Fox News (though I am frustrated to see CNN and the Huffington Post, among others, apparently injecting more sex and sensationalism, as well, no doubt for the same reason as my regular links to CNN).

    One good thing about doing only one post per day is that there is no shortage of things related to media and/or politics that I find interesting, so on most days (including some days that I don’t initially intend to write anything) a CNN story will trigger something.

    I do think that CNN gives a more balanced perspective than perhaps any other site, anyway, and I still try to make sure I make posts clear and relatively complete (considering limited time and the short space allowed by a blog post), though as you’ve no doubt noticed, I do link to the New York Times, the Associated Press and even Fox less often than I used to. Thanks for reading, and for the comment.

  8. zelda said

    Hi ho James,
    So what is your motivation for this blog?

    You don’t seem to have a particular strong stand on things….you kinda wander all over the place letting info from CNN etc. power this blog.You should know all our news sites are controlled…….you DO know this don’t you? You have to go outside the box for the real stuff.Maybe Canadian news? Or the like?Take your pick.

    Does this blog increase your book sales?

    thorn in your backside Zelda

  9. James McPherson said

    If my book sales have increased because of this, then without the blog I might be paying people to take the books. 🙂 Unfortunately academic books, though time-consuming to write, rarely become best-sellers. And I’ve worked for a couple of newspapers that had more readers every day than this blog has had in the almost 10 months I’ve been doing it (a somewhat sobering thought, considering the more than 250 posts I’ve now written here).

    So why do it? I admit that it is, as with other opinion bloggers, partly just to have my say about things that I think I know something about. There are some issues in particular on which I have taken a stand (prompting at least one reader to say I should be fired from my real job)–if you go back a ways, you’ll find repeated complaints about Bush administration lies, the Iraq War, domestic spying, the Patriot Act, government secrecy, the Christian right, John McCain’s dirty campaigning, voting irregularities, media lying (ranging from talk radio to bloggers to Photoshop), PUMAs, Sarah Palin’s hiding from the press, and Israeli military actions (Palin and Israel tend to draw more comments than most subjects, for some reason). The fact of the matter is, though, when the GOP lost the White House there was less for me to complain about, at least temporarily (though I have criticized Obama’s cabinet picks, his plans for Afghanistan, his “selective openness,” his generally conservative nature, and the way the switch to digital television has been handled).

    Still, in general I agree with you, I do “wander around” quite a bit within the constraints of “media and politics,” two subjects that allow a lot of latitude. When I’m busiest (as I am now, teaching three classes and advising a student newspaper, among other things), I tend not to do as much thinking or research for the blog as I do at times when I’m less busy.

    Partly blogging is a way of thinking out loud, so to speak, along with a way to keep track of things that I think it’s my job to keep track of, some of which I’ll end up using in classes (and might someday use in another book or chapter). Partly it’s a way of sharing knowledge with a general audience, something that I think academics don’t do very well (part of why we get the well-deserved “ivory tower” criticisms).

    Though I sometimes make peope angry, in general I’d far rather educate (or be educated), enlighten and entertain than to argue. I’ll let readers, however few they may be, determine my success at those things. I certainly don’t do this just to irritate people (though I don’t mind doing so from time to time) or to spout off. And I’ll take this opportunity to repeat what I wrote in the “About the Blog” section on my very first day back in April:

    “A primary reason for this blog is the same as for many other things I do: my students at Whitworth University. As a teacher of media studies, media history and journalism skills classes, I want to use as many ways as possible to try to connect with and to learn from those students. I hope they–and you, whoever you may be–will join in the conversation.”

    Zelda, I’m glad you’ve joined in. And one final note: I agree with you totally about using other media and seeking alternative voices, and regularly say the same to my students. That’s why the long list of links down the right side of this page includes links to various foreign newspapers (including al-Jazeera), and both liberal and conservative publications and bloggers. Even so, if I’m just commenting on something that happened, or using a news event as a starting point for discussion, I tend to trust CNN more than most. But I don’t think anyone should entirely trust them–or me, for that matter.

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