The ‘America-Held-Hostage’ Narrative

Exclusive: From the moment Barack Obama took office, the Republicans plotted to sabotage his presidency, even though the nation faced its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The U.S. news media knows that, but can’t resist blaming the President for the high unemployment, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Misguided media conventional wisdom can prove decisive in close elections, and we are seeing that again this year as one of the key storylines of the U.S. presidential campaign is that Barack Obama is at fault for the poor jobs numbers. Reporters know better, but they can’t break from this “blame Obama” narrative.

So, every time disappointing jobs numbers are released, the media chorus is that Obama will pay a steep price on Election Day 2012. You hear this even from liberal commentators. But it’s no secret that the Republicans have done all they can since Inauguration Day 2009 to obstruct the President’s plans to boost hiring.

Mitt Romney reviews papers during a recent visit to Washington. (Photo credit:

Journalistically, the truthful way to present this story is to note that the Republicans have obstructed Obama’s jobs plans at every turn and that their strategy to make the U.S. economy “scream” appears to be working.

If unemployment stays high, the GOP trusts that the pain of America’s jobless will cost Obama votes and give Mitt Romney the White House. The Republicans not only stand to benefit from high unemployment but they are doing all they can to achieve it.

Reporters are familiar with the evidence. Author Robert Draper reported that leading Republicans, such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, began plotting a destroy-Obama strategy just hours after the new President was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2009.

Though the United States was facing its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression with millions of Americans losing their jobs and millions of families facing foreclosures on their homes the Republicans were already focused on ensuring that Obama’s presidency would fail.

The process began with a few “moderate” Republicans insisting that Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package be slimmed down in size and watered down with tax cuts. Then, most Republicans called it a “failure” because, they claimed, it didn’t save or create any jobs (despite the Congressional Budget Office’s conclusion that the stimulus actually kept some 3 million Americans from being unemployed).

Republican obstructionism increased after the 2010 elections, when the GOP gained control of the House. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed that the top Republican priority would be to ensure the defeat of Obama in 2012.

Accordingly, the President’s economic proposals were declared dead on arrival on Capitol Hill and when hiring began to pick up in 2011 nonetheless the Republican Tea Partiers precipitated a crisis over the debt ceiling, injecting more uncertainty into the struggling economy.

Some estimates on the impact of the GOP’s obstruction suggest that the U.S. jobless figure could be below 6 percent now, instead of at 8.2 percent, if Obama’s major jobs bill had been enacted in 2011 and if severe austerity had not been imposed at state and local levels, often by Republican officials.

But such an improving jobs picture would not be desirable for Mitt Romney’s campaign or for Republican congressional prospects. The GOP would be denied its favorite talking point: that venture capitalist Romney knows more about creating jobs than President Obama does.

The national press corps knows the facts about the orchestrated Republican obstructionism, but still can’t escape the narrative that Obama is to blame for the sluggish economy.

A similar pattern existed in the bogus storyline of 2000, with journalists portraying Al Gore as a lying braggart and George W. Bush as a regular guy. It didn’t matter what the reality actually was. The national press corps just fell in love with the narrative. [For details on that media failure, see Neck Deep.]

Ironically, the truthful narrative for Campaign 2012 would make for a more dramatic storyline than the “blame Obama” one. The real narrative would ask: Will the Republicans’ audacious “take-the-economy-hostage” scheme work? Will the American people, in effect, ransom their economy by sacrificing President Obama and surrendering to Mitt Romney?

Yes, the price for surrender would be high allowing major new tax breaks for the rich and accepting big cuts in domestic spending that helps the country as a whole but by giving in at least the American voters could end the ugly political stalemate. That choice would be a story worth covering. 

By always placing the blame on Obama, the news media is both missing this more interesting story and rewarding the Republicans for their sabotage. In effect, a Republican “October Surprise” is playing out before our eyes making sure that the jobless numbers are still high in October but the mainstream media can’t get past the “blame Obama” conventional wisdom.

It is another way that the U.S. press corps is failing the American people — and boring them, too.

To read more of Robert Parry’s writings, you can now order his last two books, Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, at the discount price of only $16 for both. For details on the special offer, click here.]  

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.

17 comments for “The ‘America-Held-Hostage’ Narrative

  1. Robert Schwartz
    July 11, 2012 at 18:30

    Journalistically, the truthful way to present this story is to note that the Republicans have obstructed Obama’s jobs plans at every turn and that their strategy to make the U.S. economy “scream” appears to be working.

    Despite the quotation marks around the word “scream,” I wonder how many readers recognize the reference to the Pinochet coup and Henry Kissinger’s remark?

    When one looks at the advisors and cabinet members that Obama has surrounded himself with, it is hard to come to any conclusion other than that he is just the other side of the same coin that the GOPhers are pocketing.

    For example, how could anyone expect Eric Holder to hold to account the financial industry? Holder came out of the law firm Covington & Burling.

    This is a direct quote from the Covington and Burling website, : Our regulatory lawyers are recognized as experts in their fields and regularly combine their talents on behalf of the world’s top financial institutions, pharmaceutical and life sciences companies,

    One might presume that Holder wishes to find employment after his stint as AG, no?

  2. July 10, 2012 at 20:20

    The reason they’re blaming Obama is ’cause he’s president. That’s what happens when you’re president.

    The corporatists/plutocrats would prefer Mitt Romney but they know that’s gilding the lily. They’ve never had a more compliant stooge than Barack Obama.

    Robert Parry is certainly not the only one who has taken it upon himself – for whatever reason – to try and sell Obama’s song ‘one more time’ … “Yes, he’s evil but he’s the lessor of two evils” … but that’s the assignment he’s taken on.

    Until we decide to break the duopoly it will be ‘endless’ repetitions of evil, evil, evil … ’til it does end – in the CRASH! That ‘no one’ saw coming!

    Robert Parry’s marketing efforts have single-handedly destroyed the credibility of … now just a tributary to the mainstream.

  3. Kenny Fowler
    July 10, 2012 at 20:14

    “By always placing the blame on Obama, the news media is both missing this more interesting story and rewarding the Republicans for their sabotage. In effect, a Republican “October Surprise” is playing out before our eyes – making sure that the jobless numbers are still high in October – but the mainstream media can’t get past the “blame Obama” conventional wisdom.”

    The American press is in the throes of free speech gentrification. Turning into bought and paid for propaganda pretending to be “fair and balanced” ala Fox News. The winner in elections now is the party with the most propaganda power. So speech is not really free in America, it’s for sale to the highest bidder. Just ask Rupert Murdoch.

  4. TurboKitty
    July 10, 2012 at 20:02

    To speak or write as if the Mainstream Media is a separate entity from the very people who are trying to destroy President Obama and also own the Mainstream Media is ridiculous!

  5. n lyon
    July 10, 2012 at 17:34

    1. U.S. acceptance of coexistence as the only alternative to atomic war.

    2. U.S. willingness to capitulate in preference to engaging in atomic war.

    3. Develop the illusion that total disarmament [by] the United States would be a demonstration of moral strength.

    4. Permit free trade between all nations regardless of Communist affiliation and regardless of whether or not items could be used for war.

    5. Extension of long-term loans to Russia and Soviet satellites.

    6. Provide American aid to all nations regardless of Communist domination.

    7. Grant recognition of Red China. Admission of Red China to the U.N.

    8. Set up East and West Germany as separate states in spite of Khrushchev’s promise in 1955 to settle the German question by free elections under supervision of the U.N.

    9. Prolong the conferences to ban atomic tests because the United States has agreed to suspend tests as long as negotiations are in progress.

    10. Allow all Soviet satellites individual representation in the U.N.

    11. Promote the U.N. as the only hope for mankind. If its charter is rewritten, demand that it be set up as a one-world government with its own independent armed forces. (Some Communist leaders believe the world can be taken over as easily by the U.N. as by Moscow. Sometimes these two centers compete with each other as they are now doing in the Congo.)

    12. Resist any attempt to outlaw the Communist Party.

    13. Do away with all loyalty oaths.

    14. Continue giving Russia access to the U.S. Patent Office.

    15. Capture one or both of the political parties in the United States.

    16. Use technical decisions of the courts to weaken basic American institutions by claiming their activities violate civil rights.

    17. Get control of the schools. Use them as transmission belts for socialism and current Communist propaganda. Soften the curriculum. Get control of teachers’ associations. Put the party line in textbooks.

    18. Gain control of all student newspapers.

    19. Use student riots to foment public protests against programs or organizations which are under Communist attack.

    20. Infiltrate the press. Get control of book-review assignments, editorial writing, policy-making positions.

    21. Gain control of key positions in radio, TV, and motion pictures.

    22. Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression. An American Communist cell was told to “eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings, substitute shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms.”

    23. Control art critics and directors of art museums. “Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art.”

    24. Eliminate all laws governing obscenity by calling them “censorship” and a violation of free speech and free press.

    25. Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV.

    26. Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as “normal, natural, healthy.”

    27. Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with “social” religion. Discredit the Bible and emphasize the need for intellectual maturity, which does not need a “religious crutch.”

    28. Eliminate prayer or any phase of religious expression in the schools on the ground that it violates the principle of “separation of church and state.”

    29. Discredit the American Constitution by calling it inadequate, old-fashioned, out of step with modern needs, a hindrance to cooperation between nations on a worldwide basis.

    30. Discredit the American Founding Fathers. Present them as selfish aristocrats who had no concern for the “common man.”

    31. Belittle all forms of American culture and discourage the teaching of American history on the ground that it was only a minor part of the “big picture.” Give more emphasis to Russian history since the Communists took over.

    32. Support any socialist movement to give centralized control over any part of the culture–education, social agencies, welfare programs, mental health clinics, etc.

    33. Eliminate all laws or procedures which interfere with the operation of the Communist apparatus.

    34. Eliminate the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

    35. Discredit and eventually dismantle the FBI.

    36. Infiltrate and gain control of more unions.

    37. Infiltrate and gain control of big business.

    38. Transfer some of the powers of arrest from the police to social agencies. Treat all behavioral problems as psychiatric disorders which no one but psychiatrists can understand [or treat].

    39. Dominate the psychiatric profession and use mental health laws as a means of gaining coercive control over those who oppose Communist goals.

    40. Discredit the family as an institution. Encourage promiscuity and easy divorce.

    41. Emphasize the need to raise children away from the negative influence of parents. Attribute prejudices, mental blocks and retarding of children to suppressive influence of parents.

    42. Create the impression that violence and insurrection are legitimate aspects of the American tradition; that students and special-interest groups should rise up and use [“]united force[“] to solve economic, political or social problems.

    43. Overthrow all colonial governments before native populations are ready for self-government.

    44. Internationalize the Panama Canal.

    45. Repeal the Connally reservation so the United States cannot prevent the World Court from seizing jurisdiction [over domestic problems. Give the World Court jurisdiction] over nations and individuals alike.

    • n lyon
      July 10, 2012 at 17:39

      they have both American parties now…to not see it…Your either delusional lack moral fiber or have no common sense….but we have been taught this way so its no wonder nobody sees this. As most of us went to public schools and the ones that went to the ivy league universities have been heavily funded with Saudi Oil money and international socialist interests to pave the way for the one world gov….next is our guns..I am sure things will be fine for a few years once this communism sinks in but what happens is, when there is nothing left to take they start taking our lives…The communist and socialists tax themselves to death and guilt us into working like slaves out of fear..socialism /communism lives off fear….

    • Eddie
      July 10, 2012 at 23:19

      Sorry ‘n lyon’, but it’s too late to audition for a position as Joe McCarthy’s speech writer!

      But thanks for the amusing rant – – I’m just going to bed and it gave me a couple of chuckles – – – it’s kind of reminiscent of the Simon & Garfunkel song “A Desultory Philippic”, but the rhyming isn’t as good, the music isn’t very catchy and I can’t dance to it, so I give it a ‘2’, Dick.

  6. Louise Mowder
    July 10, 2012 at 16:54

    Why is the national media following this narrative? Mr Parry suggests that they “just can’t help themselves.”

    I think the answer is far more obvious and malevolent. They are all owned by large corporations that *want* Obama to fail. They want Romney and the GOP to win in November so that they can privatize the whole country. We have a paramilitary police force that can gun down protestors and look them away without habeas corpus, calling them “terrorist sympathizers.”

    Don’t look now, but expect massive restrictions on the amounts of wealth that any normal American can emigrate with. You’ll be able to leave, but be completely impoverished if you do. Thank your pick: stay here and die, impoverished and without medical care. or leave everything you’ve known to become one more impoverished refugee. Either way, they will keep whatever wealth you had. That’s all they care about, anyway.

  7. Steve Naidamast
    July 10, 2012 at 16:32

    No president can be held accountable for the performance of a national economy. He… or she is but a single individual captured by the forces that surround the office.

    However, President Obama could have made far better choices for his economic policy team than he has. And this has been a sticking point with many of the reputable economists that have critiqued Obama’s economic team.

    President Obama should have also halted the banking bailouts and just let the bad banks sink as many economists have recommended instead of sinking more bad money after bad into a horrific situation.

    Nonetheless, this is all water under the bridge. What president Obama can do now to rectify things is instruct Eric Holder’s office to pick up all the involved top financiers that helped cause the 2008 financial collapse and the republican obstructionists to well laid plans for the people of the US and have them all charged with high treason against the United States.

    There is enough evidence and documentation now available for such a move on his part but it is unlikely he would even consider such a move.

    • incontinent reader
      July 11, 2012 at 10:16

      Yes, and in reference to the first part of your comment, also finally bring in persons like Joseph Stiglitz, to deal with the economy rather than walking away and treating his past failure to do so as water under the bridge. The next generation of technology has been bubbling below the surface and there have been ways to rebuild the country and the economy if the President had had the vision. I’m afraid he’s failed to inspire the nation either because in the end he didn’t really know what to do, and/or, did not have the will to do it, because of his own debts to the special interests, in some cases the very ones who have obstructed the changes that have been needed.

      So, while Bob is right and the media has been corporatized, don’t blame it only on the media. Roosevelt short circuited the opposition by communicating directly with the nation, and knew how to use friendly media, and coax or manipulate the rest to his advantage. People want to see the inequities removed, and Obama was, we thought, a master at rallying the electorate. If he wanted, he could have gotten 10 million letters flooding the halls of Congress on any single major issue, just as he has done with his fundraising to the $5 a shot voter. He could have steamrolled the opposition. The Koch brothers are vulnerable on many issues, including the very same ones that were the subject of their criminal prosecution that slapped them on the wrist some years ago. This is true, as well, of so many other of the worst corporations who have tried to bring the country to its knees. Re: the banks, why was the Libor scandal, which was reported on in Bloomberg news several years ago after the nation had come under his watch, not pursued? Re: a take-over of the country by the major corporations, Roosevelt was alerted to a more blatant corporate fascist attempt to seize military control of the country- but he didn’t prosecute Smedley Butler for blowing the whistle and revealing it. Nor did FDR secretly sponsor and move forward a treaty like the TPP, which would greatly expand corporate power and castrate the nation’s ability to protect the health, welfare and safety of its citizens. (The TPP is so secret, in fact, that even the Senators chairing the Committees with jurisdiction to hold hearings have been excluded from even seeing a draft.) So, while one may complain about corporate interests destroying Obama’s ability to fix the economy, he has, in fact, abdicated his role and given the drafting of this legislation, at least, to those very same corporate interests.

      Yes, progressive legislation has been obstructed, but Obama’s control over the media through Executive Orders, including over the media and his array of executive powers is vast, so the tools at his disposal should not be ignored or minimized. (See for example the most recent Executive Order titled “Assignment of National Security and Emergency Preparedness Communications Functions” issued July 6, 2012, which gives him full control over the communications systems of the nation. It can be viewed at: )

      Finally, re: what he has contributed to foreign policy and the national security state, need one add anything to the record? Is the country stronger and more resilient, and its national interests better protected as a result?

      • incontinent reader
        July 11, 2012 at 10:23

        This was a reply to Mr. Fritz.

  8. Randy Fritz
    July 10, 2012 at 16:09

    And why are these attacks successful? As Mr. Parry suggests, a lazy, complacent, corporatized media is a part of it. But the true underlying cause is the continuing, awful racism still rampant in this nation. A thought exercise should prove the point. Think of a man with Mr. Obama’s precise credentials who is white. How many would buy the birther crap and “socialist” BS in that case? Would it be enough fewer that the attacks would have little effect? I can’t help but think so.

    Especially among older white men (many of whom considered themselves ’60s radicals back in the day), president Obama will be lucky to poll 40%. Gee, I’m so proud of my generation.

    • Frances in California
      July 10, 2012 at 16:11

      Me,too, Randy ~ signed, Old White Progressive American Lady.

    • n lyon
      July 10, 2012 at 17:33

      communism is running rampant.. the only racists i see are the ones on tv pointed their fingers at us…usually when they have a finger pointed at you its cause they have 4 pointed at them self…no party in america has the interest of the people at heart..NO GOVERNMENT in the world does..period..but they will use the workers to do there dirty work….communism read the communist manifesto or Naked communist…Goals of 1963..see what they have accomplished so far..You will be amazed at how far they got into our system..Both political parties, public schools, dept. of justice, edpt. defense, medical industries,all big GLOBALIST SOCIALIST corp’s and basically creating division and chaos since 1963

      • Tom
        July 10, 2012 at 20:09

        You’ve been on too many NRA, FOX News websites N Lyon…both parties are bought but hardly by “socialist” interests or the Saudis. The oil companies yes – all of the them – US, BK, Saudis, et al…hardly a “socialist coup”. But don’t overlook big Pharma, big insurance, big ag, big media and virtually any top five in any given industry. All of them are throwing money around….

        Time to forget Washington cuz there is little if any “there-there”

    • Tom
      July 10, 2012 at 20:04

      You imply the sold-out media Randy. Besides they’re sloth (used to be called sin) their owners and tenders who if not overtly discouraging another storyline wield enough influence so that they become self-editing…Like you – I’m really proud of my generation…

    • Piotra
      July 12, 2012 at 02:00

      Don`t think a minute that these attacks are successful – only for the lazy
      and complacent and very ill informed and mindless few . . that`s about it.
      What is,and I totally agree,as you pointed out . . is the continuing, awful racism . . brought on and fully supported by the > corporatist media,which
      controls > moronic,lying,cheating,phoney candidates such as Mitt Romney.
      However,I do firmly believe that a prevailing majority will reelect Mr.Obama
      because of his solid record supporting the working middle class,plus the fact
      that the alternative GOP-Romney has been exposed as a silly and obvious fraud

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