“Unexpectedly”: Barone Let’s Mainstream in on Our Little Joke…

This end of the blogosphere has enjoyed a delicious running joke for much of Barack Obama’s presidency…the strange appearance of the word “unexpectedly” in MSM coverage of the anemic economic recovery.  Of course, many of us knew that Dear Leader’s economic policies would either amount to nothing and/or inhibit economic growth even as they were being debated, so there was nothing unexpected about the result.  Still, the joke has only gotten funnier (sadder?) as time has worn on and it becomes clearer and clearer that the man-who-has-never-had-a-real-job-yet-occupies-the-White-House has no clue what he is doing when it comes to the economy. (For our purposes here, we ignore the not-so-outlandish notion that perhaps he knows exactly what he is doing, but that robust economic growth, if it is the result of typical laissez-faire American capitalism, is not his goal.)

Anyway, this joke – and the point it reveals – has finally made it somewhat mainstream via the good offices of Michael Barone, who makes it the central theme of this Washington Examiner column.

Which raises some questions. As Instapundit reader Gordon Stewart, quoted by Reynolds on May 17, put it, “How many times in a row can something happen unexpectedly before the experts start to, you know, expect it? At some point, shouldn’t they be required to state the foundation for their expectations?”

One answer is that many in the mainstream media have been cheerleading for Barack Obama. They and he both naturally hope for a strong economic recovery. After all, Obama can’t keep blaming the economic doldrums on George W. Bush forever.

It’s obviously going to be hard to achieve the unacknowledged goal of many mainstream journalists — the president’s re-election — if the economic slump continues. So they characterize economic setbacks as unexpected, with the implication that there’s still every reason to believe that, in Herbert Hoover’s phrase, prosperity is just around the corner.

A less cynical explanation is that many journalists really believe that the Obama administration’s policies are likely to improve the economy. Certainly that has been the expectation as well as the hope of administration policymakers.

And funnily enough, Barone is getting a sense (or giving his readers a sense) of just how ridiculous the MSM looks as the joke gets older and older.  Sure enough, there is more “unexpected” economic bad news today.

Let’s unpack that a little. “the toll that [gas prices, etc.] are taking on people’s psyches.” Only on their psyches? The way I read it, the toll is being taken on their pocketbooks, their economic position, their net worth—phrase it any way you want, but the damage from high gas prices, low hiring and housing price doldrums is concrete and economic, not airy and “psychic.” People aren’t just being spooked; their responding to realities. And who, by the way, are the “economists” who had expected consumer confidence to rise? Perhaps the Associated Press writers could do a little investigation here and tell us who the economists are who keep getting things wrong. Or will they be content to keep characterizing negative economic trends as “unexpected”?

Barone also hints at some other themes that I’ve touched on before over at my blog: 1) the MSM kicking the propaganda machine into overdrive for Obama’s re-election, and 2) the existence of the “job market vigilantes.”
UPDATE:  Here is another one…apparently we don’t feel all that great about the economy.  Strange indeed, with such a brilliant man in the White House…

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  • SigFan

    Early on in Obama’s reign, er, rule, um term of office, I was willing to give him the benefit of a doubt, thinking maybe he just needed a little time to get his feet under him.  At this point, and at the risk of sounding a conspiratorial, I don’t think his inexperience and lack of any measurable success can be chalked up to anything less than a deliberate and concerted effort to, as he said in his own words, “fundamentally change America”.  If you take those words at face value, then he is succeeding wildly, although I’m sure not exactly the way people thought he meant it.  He will, in my opinion, be regarded as a traitor to this country when examined through the lens of time.  Of course, those on the left, his kindred spirits, are deliriously happy with his “progress” toward bringing America to heel.  Nothing unexpected about it.

    • LastBestHope

      “fundamentally TRANSFORM the United States of America” was what he promised just 5 days before his election (the hope-change thing was just the branding phrase)

      He has transformed US. We now have a Tea Party full of motivated citizens who, for the most part, were non-political folks before Obama. We now have a GOP House and 6 new GOP Senators. We have a vigilant and active “alternative media” (Breitbart + many others) that is now a viable answer to the HuffPo, MoveOn nonsense that went unchallenged before. The MSM is a Pravda joke now, with a declining viewer/reader base who does not buy/believe the party line anymore.The excesses of The One and his gang of anti-American sychophants has in fact transformed US…but not according to their plan.

      The People can be fooled…but are not fools.

  • WOOF

    Another conspiracy beating “real Americans” down.
    Shrewd Marxists are stealing your essence.

    • Guest


  • Guest


  • LastBestHope

    Krauthammer just now on THE PANEL: referred to the “unexpectedly” preface to today’s sour numbers and asked, “What’s unexpected?” He then when on to say that Obama was elected to bring our economy back and his policies “have failed”

    Mara Liasson (NPR) added that 9% unemployment is surely bad news for Obama…which for her, was a pretty big admission of the obvious.

    • Bat One

      Two and a half years into the Obama presidency and Mara Liasson is “unexpectedly” recognizing that we have an unemployment problem?  Wow!

  • Bat One

    DB,  You’ve been on to the MSM’s “unexpectedly” routine for at least a year and a half that I recall.  So where’s Mr. Barone been all this time?

  • http://proof-proofpositive.blogspot.com/ Proof

    An unexpectedly honest piece of reporting from the MSM.

  • LastBestHope

    Krauthammer’s Take
    June 1, 2011 11:28 A.M.
    By NRO Staff

    On the economy turning around before Election Day next year:

    “It’s possible but unlikely. This is the sequel, Summer of Recovery II. I’m sure they will announce it next year as well. Probably will happen in 2018.We’re seeing a historically, extremely, unusually weak recovery. [Yet] I notice when the press characterizes these numbers like the one on housing today, the word “unexpectedly” is used. What is unexpected about it?

    We have 1.8 percent growth in the economy, extremely anemic. We have a sky high price for energy and food which is stealing money out of the consumer economy. We have nine percent unemployment. And we have this historic drop in the price of housing. There is nothing unexpected about it.

    The [recovery] plan that the administration promised when it came to office has failed.”


    • LastBestHope

      Why does MSM ignore Krauthammer?