It is not surprising that so many politicians have such a low opinion of the media; we make it so easy for them to do so.
Take Barack Obama's handling of the Jeremiah Wright episode. So far, Obama has gotten through this mess not by frankly facing up to what he knew about Wright's past statements and what he did about them, but by bluffing his way through.
Take Obama's recent interview on "Today." In it, Obama explained why he did not speak out sooner to denounce Wright.
"When the first snippets came out, I thought it was important to give him the benefit of the doubt," Obama said of Wright, "because if I had wanted to be politically expedient, I would have distanced myself and denounced him right away, right? That would have been the easy thing to do."
Huh? Let's take a look at that:
"When the first snippets came out, I thought it was important to give him the benefit of the doubt."
When Obama heard the "first snippets" that Wright believed the U.S. government "lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color" and that the United States deserved to be attacked on Sept. 11 because "we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye," Obama then decided to give Wright the "benefit of the doubt"?
Does this make sense? When Obama heard these "snippets," why didn't Obama call Wright immediately and demand an explanation and express his concerns?
Obama has an explanation, but it simply makes no sense: "Because if I had wanted to be politically expedient, I would have distanced myself and denounced him right away, right? That would have been the easy thing to do."
So let me get this straight: Obama did the wrong thing, because he didn't want to appear to be doing the politically expedient thing, which was the right thing.
Obama knew what the right thing to do was, but he didn't do that because it would have been "easy" and he was afraid he would be accused of political expediency.
Does Obama really want us to believe this is how he makes important decisions? Or is this a politician bluffing his way through a tough moment and trying to get away with it?
Obama also has not fully explained what caused the final breach between him and Wright. There is no doubt that in his speech in Philadelphia on March 18, Obama distanced himself from Wright. But in that speech, Obama also said: "I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother."
So what caused Obama to finally say this week that he was "appalled" by Wright? It was not Wright's attacks on America, apparently. It was Wright's attacks on Obama.
Wright went before the National Press Club on Monday and said Obama was distancing himself from Wright only because "politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls" and that Obama "had to distance himself, because he's a politician."
With that, Wright had gone too far. Accusing the United States of inventing HIV and saying we deserved to be attacked on Sept. 11, well, Obama could give Wright the "benefit of the doubt" on that. But attacking Obama himself? That Obama could not forgive.
The New York Times reported: "As Mr. Obama told close friends after watching the replay [of Wright at the press club], he felt dumbfounded, even betrayed, particularly by Mr. Wright's implication that Mr. Obama was being hypocritical. He could not tolerate that."
Which, to put it mildly, could be considered a case of misplaced priorities.
Obama said Thursday while campaigning in Indiana: "When you're running for president, you make certain assumptions that people, after 15 months, really know who you are. Then you realize, well, maybe there's still a whole bunch of folks who don't know who you are, despite the fact you're on TV every day."
Obama is correct. A lot of people still don't know who he is. Obama is not Jeremiah Wright, and he needs to let people know that, even if it means talking about a subject he wishes would go away.
Obama is scheduled to appear on "Meet the Press With Tim Russert" on Sunday. Obama should use it as an opportunity to speak candidly and completely about Wright, make clear what he knew and when he knew it about Wright and explain how his own views differ from Wright's.
Sometimes the best way to tell people who you are is to tell them who you are not.