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Monday, December 18, 2017

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

 

During Barack Obama’s presidency, perhaps no conservative media outlet lamented as loudly about the frequency of the president’s golf games as Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller.

Year after year, a parade of Daily Caller staffers lined up to feed the phony outrage machine by detailing the supposedly mountainous taxpayer costs associated with the excursions. The headlines often stressed that Obama’s golf trips took place against the backdrop of grim news events, suggesting the president was pampered and out of touch:

Milwaukee Burns, Louisiana Floods, Obama Golfs” (August 15)

As Suspected Terror Rages In Berlin, Obama Hits Hawaiian Golf Course” (December 19)

For eight years, the “Obama golfs too much” narrative served as shorthand for the right-wing press to denigrate the president as lazy, not serious, and tone deaf.

And then came President Donald Trump.

His relentless trips to the links and to his Florida resort have quickly turned any previous complaints about Obama into a punchline.

Overall, the taxpayer expenses for Trump’s domestic travels, including his golf trips to Florida, have been staggering: $20 million in less than three months, a clip that would add up to $80 million a year.

As CNN recently reported, Trump’s outings are “putting the president on pace in his first year of office to surpass former President Barack Obama’s spending on travel for his entire eight years.”

All of this family travel and the colossal, unprecedented costs paid by taxpayers make the conservative media look completely absurd. Why? The Daily Caller once complained about two Obama golf trips that cost an estimated $1,031,685 and $804,870. Today, that’s in the ballpark of what it costs every time Trump goes to Mar-a-Lago — and he’s already been seven times this year.

Last month, The Daily Caller at least conceded that Trump had previously criticized Obama for playing golf as president and was now playing ever more himself. But like so many in the conservative media, The Daily Caller refused to acknowledge its own, years-long hypocrisy on the issue. Instead, the Caller is now framing Trump’s golf outings as helpful for diplomacy.

For conservative media, it’s not just the golfing hypocrisy that’s been driven off the charts this year. Instead, it’s becoming clear that many of the unlikable traits that the far-right press desperately tried to assign to Obama — he’s lazy, he’s secretive, he’s a bully, he’s corrupt — are all now being proudly embodied by Trump.

For eight years, right-wing media invented an unflattering image of Obama that never fit the reality. But now it fits Trump perfectly, and the conservative press is too embarrassed to admit it.

Recall that so few of the far right’s relentless attacks on Obama were based on policy. Instead, they were personality driven. But confronted by a mainstream, center-left Democrat who eschewed drama and displays of pure partisanship, far-right press critics simply invented a villainous figure with obnoxious traits that would fit their narrative.

Today, Trump perfectly mirrors that figure.

On Friday, the Trump administration announced that the White House visitor logs would not be released to the public, ensuring that the administration would work in secret. The decision directly contradicted the transparent protocols used by the Obama White House, which released nearly 6 million White House visitor records. “Mr. Trump has rejected other basic standards of presidential disclosures, like the release of his tax returns,” notedThe New York Times.

Of course, right-wing media spent years hammering Obama for being secretive and trying to hide his true agenda from the public. In fact, Obama’s press critics routinely weaponized the White House visitor logs, which were released to the public, in order to concoct bogus claims of scandal and corruption. (No, Bertha M. Lewis, the CEO of ACORN, did not visit the White House in 2009. Yes, according to the visitor log, a “Bertha E. Lewis” did go on the White House tour while Obama was president.)

And don’t forget that conservative media famously implied Obama was hiding his personal history and claimed he was secretly a Muslim born outside the United States. He wasn’t being transparent!

Today, those same media critics turn away as the Trump White House retreats behind a wall of secrecy and refuses to even acknowledge who’s visiting the White House.

And the visitor log issue isn’t just about optics either. It’s related to an ongoing investigation into possible White House malfeasance. From The Washington Post:

The existence of the visitor logs burst back into the news last month when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) went to the White House to review intelligence reports on which he later briefed the president. Nunes and White House officials declined to say whom Nunes had visited and who had cleared him onto the grounds, information that is typically contained in the logs, along with the length of the stay.

What else did the far-right press love to hit Obama on? Corruption, naturally. (Note that unlike some of Obama’s predecessors, during his two terms “there were no grand juries investigating his aides. There were no impeachments. There were neither convictions of White House staffers, nor pardons to protect government officials.”)

Today, while Trump and his family obliterate all the norms for White House corruption and self-enrichment, the same critics remain mostly mute.

Trump now seems to embody everything the right-wing press complained about regarding Obama. And suddenly they’re fine with it.

Image via the Obama White House Flickr account.