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Ronald B. Robinson

Ronald B. Robinson

Posted January 23, 2009 | 10:40 AM (EST)

Keeping Anderson Cooper Honest: How CNN and the Media Flubbed Obama's 2nd Swearing In


Billions of people celebrated the live broadcast of President Obama's swearing in on January 20. Yet, the very next evening, CNN's "Just keeping them honest," Anderson Cooper, and White House Correspondent Ed Henry seemed to join the campaign launched by Chris Wallace of Fox Television News, Rush Limbaugh and others to question the authenticity of both the President's first and second "swearing-in." Then, during the Thursday White House Press Briefing, CBS newsman Bill Plante joined the orgy with his aggressive questioning about the second swearing in. This has helped feed a blogosphere frenzy alleging the President's so called "true inauguration," i.e., the untelevised redo, was held in secret and that the book used to swear upon was the Koran. Even Pat Buchanan on MSNBC's Morning Joe dropped this hint Wednesday morning after it was reported that a Bible was not used.

Unfortunately, conservative Chief Justice Roberts flubbed the correct wording of the Oath during the inauguration. The President repeated the words administered by the Chief Justice. In other words, Obama repeated Roberts' error. Yet, the very last thing Anderson Cooper did on his Wednesday night segment without any possibility of rejoinder was to compare Lyndon Johnson's "flubbing" of his Oath of Office as Vice President with President Obama's situation. Anderson Cooper's analogy falsely portrayed President Obama as a "flubber" rather than his simply smoothing over Chief Justice Roberts error.

Cooper, Henry, Mark Whittaker of MSNBC and others have, in essence, portrayed the President as both incompetent and conspiratorial. These representatives of the Forth Estate have raised innuendos that have showered a pall of negativity upon the President simply because they were unable to crowd the private swearing-in session with their cameras. Further compromising their credibility is the fact that they seemed to cast a pall of suspicion on the legitimacy and veracity of print journalists who were witnesses to the so called "private" session. Sadly, these broadcasters, CNN and others have made themselves the news as opposed to focusing attention on all of the policy and transparency actions taken by the President. It is one thing to faithfully carry out one's responsibility as the 4th Estate and honestly cover, frame, and prioritize news stories and issues. In this case, however, even CNN, the so called television news source of record, broke its pledge of "keeping them honest" by exempting itself from its own standard.

CNN's Henry made a special point of juxtaposing Obama's signing of executive orders -- essentially ending under his Presidency the well known "lobbyist loop" (i.e., immediately going from appointed government official to lobbyist and back again), and his opening up Government records to the public -- with his not allowing CNN and other TV broadcasters to cover the hastily organized redo swearing in ceremony. Further, Henry made an issue of the fact that reporters weren't allowed into meetings held between Obama and his internal economic and/or military advisers. The bottom line is that it appears that CNN, Fox and other mainstream news organizations have essentially joined Rush Limbaugh in either framing Obama as untrustworthy and hypocritical because he was not transparent on their self promoting terms, or in fanning the flames of the same paranoia we saw during the election campaign. Shame on them for manufacturing news that stole some of the hope the world has placed on the shoulders of this President during this time of worldwide crisis.

I suppose their veiled mudslinging is supposed to make up for their failure to hold either former President Bush accountable for spying on Americans, including News organizations and journalists, his twisting intelligence to take us to war in Iraq, or Vice President Cheney's secret meetings with the energy industry including a company he held stock in. Even today, this same media that is creating a negative impression of President Obama is saying little or nothing about the outgoing administration's widespread destruction of official government emails and records. Had CNN honestly been reporting and contextualizing the news, it would have juxtaposed Obama's executive orders, actions, and meetings with the Bush/Cheney administration's playing fast and loose with the Constitutional rule of law. Instead, it portrayed Obama's private meetings with internal advisers as if they were the same thing as Vice President Cheney's strategy sessions with Big Oil and thumb nosing of Court orders requiring him to make public what was discussed and who attended.

Wouldn't honest and transparent coverage include giving the benefit of the doubt to the possibility that President Obama did not want to have the hurried redo session eclipse the inaugural swearing in, or be depicted as somehow more official and authentic then what billions of people in the world marveled at? Isn't it obvious that television coverage and subsequent punditry would very likely have fueled this perception? But these plausible considerations and motivations were never even mentioned.

And what about millions of others like me, who came to Washington to witness the swearing in and countless others who watched on T.V.? Should Obama have thrown us under the bus just to avoid the hurt feelings of news broadcasters whose cameras were not invited in to the redo? Rather, the day after Obama called for ALL of us to end the era of recriminations and our childish ways, to "pick ourselves up" and take personal and social responsibility, CNN and others appear to have had a temper tantrum, seemingly more intent on "settling a score" with Obama for being "jilted," while failing its their personal and social responsibility to continue to bring attention to the ongoing damage to the Constitution and our freedoms carried out by the previous Administration, whose political appointees and "true believers" still populate key levels throughout the Government. They also failed to discharge their social responsibility by assuming the worst about this new President first, while un-reflectively helping to fan paranoid fantasies and sow seeds of distrust in Obama before his administration even gets off the ground.

Anderson, Ed, Mark, Chris, Bill, CNN, CBS and the rest of the journalists, reporters, analysts, hosts, and news organizations that make up the 4th Estate, it's still not too late to reread Obama's inaugural address. This time, however, realize that when the President spoke about those who helped bring the country to its current crisis, he was also talking about you. It's time for you to ante up, chip in, and help us get through this crisis, and stop contributing to it. And lastly, next time you get on your holier than thou high horse and innocently proclaim that you're "just keeping them honest" and "transparent," try holding yourself to those same standards before blurting out whatever the producer whispers in your ear.