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What—or whom—is the president's biggest problem on Obamacare launching?

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John W. Eyster
October 23, 2013

I am focused on the roles and responsibilities of THE MEDIA in our American political system and culture as we continue through the “American Government & Politics” class @UW-Whitewater. The topic is really in the spotlight these days with the recuperation from the US Government shutdown and Debt Ceiling Crisis and the dysfunctional launching of the Patient Protection & Affordable Health Care Act (“ACA” - often called, “Obamacare”). I have found various articles and videos to provide examples of the MEDIA in our political system and culture.

We have reviewed the key roles which political scientists generally analyze the media in our political system and culture. They are: (1) Gatekeeper – they decide what is news and how long specific issues and persons will be in the media spotlight. They influence the public agenda as they make those decisions. (2) Scorekeeper – they tell us who is winning and who is losing whether during the debates over the US GOVERNMENT'S BUDGET which led to shutdown or the DEBT CEILING which threatened US credit ratings. During campaigns and elections, they report on who is WINNING and who is LOSING. WINNERS benefit from the “bandwagon” dynamic. LOSERS benefit from the “underdog” dynamic. (3) Watchdog – the media can be a very significant source of facts and analysis as to what politicians and government agencies are actually doing. Consider the significant investigative reporting which was generated by Edward Snowden's release of secret files. (I suggest you read Richard Cohen's OpEd column published by the Washington Post last Monday, “Edward Snowden is no traitor.” This is a very thoughtful analysis which I recommend for your evaluation.)

My YOUNG students (18-20) are NOT aware of “Watergate” and the Resignation of President Richard M. Nixon as are most of my readers. I do go over “Watergate” with the OUTstanding “watchdog” work of The Washington Post with journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. I believe that the WATCHDOG role of the media is essential in our Republic. I wish media had more courage and resources for investigate reporting. What do YOU think?

Keeping an eye on media reports day-by-day to bring our study into focus for my students, I was VERY HAPPY to see the headline, “How Jon Steward became President Obama's biggest problem” on Chris Cillizza's very popular and highly credible OpEd column, “The Fix.” I encourage you to read the column to add perspective to our discussion of the situation vis--vis the ACA. You will probably want to use the link to the clip from “The Daily Show” too.

Cillizza asserts, “President Obama's biggest problem when it comes to selling the American public on the so-far rocky rollout of his health-care law isn't John Boehner or Mitch McConnell or even Ted Cruz. It's Jon Stewart.

“Stewart, the host of the wildly popular 'Daily Show' on Comedy Central, has emerged as a harsh critic of healthcare.gov and the Obama Administration's inability to fix it.”

It is very important to note, as Cillizza does, that according to a 2012 Pew Research Center poll, “The Daily Show” has the second largest share of young viewers — aged 18-29 — of any of the 24 media outlets tested. (The only one with a higher number of young viewers was the “Colbert Report”.) The article has a chart from Pew Research showing the comparison of news shows in terms of ages of viewers. VERY TELLING!

Cillizza analyzes, “But, these same young people tend to get much of their news — and therefore have their opinions shaped — not by places like the Washington Post or the CBS Evening News but rather from Stewart. He is their Tom Brokaw, their David Brinkley. So, what Stewart says matters — a lot.”

I want to let you know that Cillizza asks a very poignant question, “How might President Obama solve his 'Stewart' problem?” I leave it to YOU to read Cillizza's column to get his response. What is YOUR response? What do YOU recommend to President Obama?



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