That alone, the move by big media to fact-check
the president’s State of the Union address, is almost as astonishing a
reversal as was president Obama’s and the Democratic Congressional
leadership’s since last Tuesday’s loss of Ted Kennedy’s seat in
Massachusetts to a Republican, taking away their 60 seat majority.

Whew, just when you think you’ve heard ‘re-set’ far too much…..Time
to take a deep breath and consider what’s happening in American
politics.

For one thing, within 24 hours (less, actually) of Scott Brown’s
victory in Massachusetts, the constant topic of the airwaves went from
health care legislation to jobs and the economy. If our government is
that fickle, how trustworthy are they with the nation’s business?
(Rhetorical question. They haven’t been trustworthy in a long time.)

But look at this….Big (relatively speaking) media were fact-checking Obama during and after the address. Let’s take a look…

“The president has assailed the Supreme Court’s decision on campaign
financing, and tonight said, “The Supreme Court reversed a century of
law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign
companies — to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don’t think
American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful
interests, and worse, by foreign entities.”

“Politifact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Web site from the St.
Petersburg Times, did some research when Obama first made the claim in
his weekly radio address last weekend and found that it was barely
true. Obama’s statements on whether foreign companies can spend money
in U.S. political campaigns “overstated the ruling’s immediate impact.”

“Current federal law prevents “a partnership, association,
corporation, organization, or other combination of persons organized
under the laws of or having its principal place of business in a
foreign country” from making, “directly or indirectly,” a donation or
expenditure “in connection with a federal, state, or local election,”
to a political party committee or “for an electioneering
communication.”

“U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was seen shaking his head tonight as Obama made the pointed attack.”

Taking that further, Alito was seen mouthing the words “not true”
. It’s not Congressman Joe Wilson’s ‘You lie!’, but the camera caught
that silent moment of rejection of Obama’s claims by Justice Alito.

They were also rejected by Kevin McCullough,
and Frank Luntz’s focus group reacting electonically to the whole
speech. The common thread of reaction in that group (not yet available
as a link) mirrored my thoughts……this sounds just like his early
campaign speeches. And before I heard or read a single syllable of
reaction by any media, I thought the pitch, tenor and rhetoric of this
address was a reversion to the early and eager candidate Obama.

So maybe a critique by an American outside America helps focus the reaction…

“His manner and tone were always going to be subject to lively
scrutiny: had his nerve been broken? Would the “cool” Obama survive the
catastrophic defeat in Massachusetts and the collapse of his approval
ratings? Well, he was cool enough. Jaunty, even – which may prove to
have been a misjudgement. He clearly wanted to look undaunted but he
came across as almost flippant. A more sombre delivery might have
seemed more in tune with the anger and frustration of voters who still
see themselves as beset by crisis. I rather expect that many of them
could have done without the high school valedictory peroration on the
greatness of American ideals and how “our values are American values”
rather than Democrat or Republican values, and that political opponents
who just wanted to “say ‘no’ to everything” were underming those
values, etc, etc.

“Railing against the evils of partisan politics is the last refuge
of the failing leader. It’s a bit desperate to be falling back on that
tactic after only a year in office – especially when that year was
spent with a firm lock on your congressional majority. If Obama is
reduced to blaming Washington infighting for his inability to impress
the nation after a year in which his party dominated government, what
will the next three years be like?”

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....