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From Crimea to Clearwater, It's All Obama's Fault

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From Crimea to Clearwater, Florida, the message is clear: every setback to U.S. or Democratic Party interests is Barack Obama's fault.

I've been very disappointed in Barack Obama's presidency, but the relentless attacks on him from all sides are disconnected from reality.

For example, NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote on March 15:

"Due to the inability of the president and congressional Democrats to move their agenda through Congress, the president is having to govern through executive order and revising federal regulations.

Republicans have latched on to this to make the case around the country that Obama is a dictator and an imperial president. But governing through executive order isn't a sign of strength. It's a sign of weakness.

And it's that weakness that has Democrats scared to death."

Issuing executive orders to overcome Republican obstructionism shows weakness? What political planet does Dowd live on?

Weakness is when a president follows a re-election landslide by allowing the voters' will to be thwarted by a political minority. Obama's greatest shows of strength have come through his executive orders, which is why his willingness to issue an order slowing deportations has become the chief litmus test of his presidency.

Attacking Health Care

If you believe the media, millions of Americans who once supported expanded health care coverage now oppose it because of the snafus associated with the rollout of the Obamacare website. And it's all Obama's fault.

But if Obamacare is so unpopular, how did the president easily defeat Mitt Romney who pledged to repeal the law? The media has framed the GOP candidate's victory in a recent special election in Clearwater, Florida for a seat held by a Republican for 40 years as proof that Obamacare is unpopular (it also allegedly was a defeat for "global warming alarmism.")

Powerful economic interests and millions of voters have always opposed health care expansion. The website problems did not add to this number. The media seems to have forgotten that Bill Clinton, now routinely portrayed as having the political skills that Obama allegedly lacks, did not get any health reform enacted despite Democratic control of Congress.

Crimea and Iraq

Obama is also blamed for Russia's annexation of Crimea. As Senator John McCain puts it, he has "made America look weak."

Think about all of the American, Vietnamese and Iraqi lives lost in wars fought to prevent America from "looking weak." And about how the Iraq war utterly failed to "stabilize" the Middle East.

But instead of writing stories based on historical facts, the media turns even the most reckless anti-Obama attacks -- such as Lindsey Graham's claim that Crimea was fueled by our "failure" in Benghazi -- into legitimate policy narratives.

Obama Is "Aloof"

Obama bashers regularly claim that the president is "aloof," and does not viscerally connect to fellow politicians or campaign donors. This again is contrasted with Bill Clinton, whose alleged ability to "cross party lines" did not stop him from being impeached (or from being similarly targeted by the "right wing media machine.")

I have yet to hear African Americans describe Obama as aloof. In fact, during a discussion about Obama prior to the recent NBA All Star game in which Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Shaquille O'Neal all expressed how well they connected to the president. Barkley even became quite emotional.

The white-dominated traditional media evaluates politicians' social skills in relation to white reporters, politicians and donors. I don't recall stories criticizing Reagan's inability to personally connect to African Americans or Latinos, because in the media's framing aloofness to these populations doesn't count.

Holding Obama Accountable

Criticizing the Obama blame game does not mean progressives should stop holding the president accountable for decisions where he is responsible. To the contrary, increased activist pressure on Obama to reject the Keystone Pipeline and end mass deportations is essential.

Obama also deserves criticism for not nominating judges to fill federal court vacancies. There are 89 district court and appellate vacancies, which is 11 percent of the 850 total positions. Considering that Democratic Presidential candidates routinely highlight judicial appointments as a key reason for support, Obama's keeping so many seats vacant is outrageous.

Democrats can complain about nominees not getting confirmed, but if Obama does not make the appointments in the first place, the fault is on him.

There are other actions or failures to act for which Obama deserves blame, as is true for even the best of politicians. But in a media world where Republican talking points frame traditional news coverage, the relentless blaming of Obama is profoundly reactionary -- and boosts those seeking to move the country to the right.

The 2008 and 2012 elections confirmed that most Americans prefer a president who recognizes that inequality is the greatest challenge of our time to a political opposition that promotes hunger among the poor. But in the traditional media's false construct, the unemployed and hungry only have Barack Obama to blame.

Randy Shaw is editor of Beyond Chron. He discusses strategies for holding Obama and other politicians accountable in his new book, The Activist's Handbook, 2nd ed.: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century.