It’s as if misdeeds by the bunglers who gave us those Benghazi talking points, Internal Revenue Service political abuses and FBI seizures of journalists’ communications are all that matters in President Barack Obama’s second term.
We’ve become so caught up in the scandal soaps that we often miss major news that affects us all. (Unless we catch a glimpse of it on those little news ribbons that move slowly across the bottoms of our screens beneath the chatterers and yappers.)
These are major newsbreaks — often dueling newsbreaks delivering conflicting messages: It is the best of times; it is the worst of times. It is news that affects us all.
Best of Times Newsbreak: The U.S. economy is rebounding stronger than any of us would have guessed from the rhetoric of last year’s presidential campaign. Credit goes to the combined bipartisan emergency efforts that began in President George W. Bush’s last year and continued under Obama. The deficit numbers are not as dire as once predicted. Consumer confidence also reached a five-year high last month. For 31 straight months, employers have added jobs — despite the curtailing effect of the sequester’s mandatory spending cuts.
Best of Times Newsbreak: The housing industry, which had been lagging in the economic recovery, is reportedly lagging no more. Housing prices rose in all 20 markets that were being tracked, and home sales and building permits rose significantly, producing the biggest gains in seven years.
Best of Times Newsbreak: Medicare, which was depicted by Republicans in campaign 2012 in terms that ranged from gloom to doom, was reported by its trustees Saturday to have a more positive future than many expected. Why? Because health-care costs, which had been soaring, were falling. Why? Because Obama’s Affordable Care Act — the “Obamacare” that Republicans vehemently campaigned against — has reportedly cut costs and reduced waste, at least so far. The trustees also reported no further deterioration in Social Security’s stability, which was also good incremental news.
Worst of Times Newsbreak: Russia, Iran and Iran’s Lebanon-based client, Hezbollah, have moved strongly to re-arm the forces of Syria’s authoritarian President Bashar al-Assad. That’s terrible news for Syria’s rebels, besieged citizens and Syria’s Arab neighbors. Also for the United States, Britain and France, which have called for an end to Assad’s brutal dictatorship but have failed to fully arm rebels, provide air support or establish a no-fly zone to limit Assad’s air force.
Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to have returned to his old KGB mindset; he is clearly gleefully sticking it to the United States by providing Assad’s military with advanced S-300 missile-defense batteries, 10 MIG fighters and other weapons. Obama’s indecisive leadership on the Syria issue has raised questions about America’s global leadership.
Worst of Times Newsbreak: Chinese hackers have breached and compromised designs for more than two dozen of America’s most advanced weapons systems, including missile defenses and combat aircraft, according to a new report by the U.S. Defense Science Board. News of China’s espionage successes came just days before Obama’s planned summit in California with China’s President Xi Jinping this weekend.
Worst of Times Newsbreak: China is now the biggest customer of Iraq’s now-booming oil production — achieved thanks to the sacrifices of thousands of American troops. Another unintended consequence of Bush’s war that toppled Saddam Hussein is that Iran is now Iraq’s new influential ally.
All of these newsbreaks came pouring out of our Great News Funnel in recent weeks — yet they received stunningly scant attention.
Long after we have forgotten those so-called “scandals” that dominate today’s political and media discourse, we will feel the effects of those surprisingly positive domestic developments and those potentially disastrous international developments.
They will shape the real legacy of the Obama presidency — and our destiny.
Martin Schram writes political analysis for Scripps Howard News Service.