copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
It was not the first time. Many individuals fear it will not be the last. Last evening, during a Presidential press conference, millions witnessed the characteristic wonderment that is Lynn Sweet. Whilst citizens in this country anxiously awaited more words from the President on what, for most is truly a tangible issue, Health Care coverage, Ms Sweet decided to move the conversation in her own memorable manner. Provocateur , otherwise known as Chicago Sun TimesColumnist Lynn Sweet did as she often does. She changed the subject.
As she had done in the past, on the evening of July 22, 2009, this previously little known Journalist diverted attention. Lynn Sweets said it was not a plot. She had no intention of inciting the American people. It was merely a matter of "timing." The White House Press Correspondent thought it "appropriate" to speak of what no one had throughout the night. "Noted Harvard African-American studies Professor Henry Louis Gates Junior," and his arrest at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts was, in her mind, the more meaningful matter.
For a long while, Lynn Sweet has defined what her readers must think of as imperative. Her personal desires and chutzpah drive her. "I do come from a place where people are not shy about mixing it up a little bit." If Ms Sweet is not interested in a subject or a soul she will ignore what she thinks irreverent.
In 1999, a virtually unknown Illinois State Senator Barack Obama introduced himself to the Sun Times Washington Bureau Chief. The author handed the Chicago tabloid Writer his autobiographical account, "Dreams From My Father." Five years later, in June, she belatedly began to leaf through the pages of the tome. It was not until late in 2004, after United States Senator Obama delivered his address at the Democratic National Convention, and the book was re-released that Sweet thought of the read as other than a bothersome endeavor.
Once read, the Columnist offered quite a critical review of what had become a widely praised publication.. Perhaps, in 2004 and in July 2009, Sweet preferred to deviate from the norm, if only to distinguish herself as different. No one can know with certainty. Nonetheless, Americans were able to observe the Chicago Sun Times Correspondent created this distraction much in the way she had previously done. Perchance, her style has helped advance her personal prominence.
Surely, she would later say, people have a right to know what the President thinks about issues other than Health Care reform. Indeed, in her own blog post Lynn Sweet reminds Americans that two other reporters spoke on themes not related to Health care. However, each of these asked what the Administration might do as it pertains to policy.
The Sun Times Bureau Chief however, chose to ask the President for a personal perspective. Intentionally, she presented a problem that evokes much passion. She stated, "What does that incident say to you and what does it say about race relations in America?" Certainly, Lynn Sweet defends; she did not consider how much the public loves to engage in divisive discussions. The innocent bearer of information did not ponder the known veracity. Conflict sells papers. Assuredly, it never occurred to Ms Sweet she would garner greater visibility if her question were emotionally charged.
However, history gives us pause. We have seen in the past, when Lynn Sweet does what she does best; create a scene, her pocketbook and professional status profits. A sensational story will cause her numbers to soar. And so it was.
Damn the proposed reforms. Forget what Americans think vital, possible alternatives that would improve medical practices. Lynn Sweet wants to talk about race, racism, police, anything but policies that could benefit average Americans, Black, white, and every shade in between.
Friends, fellow reporters, readers of her articles, and of her blog understand. Barack Obama was not able to charm Lynn Sweet. she is not characterized as one who has an axe to grind. Ms Sweet is sincerely on a mission. She has her own plan. The Correspondent's mission began but a short time ago. The Washington Bureau Chief said of herself.
"I started looking at a lot of blogs and I realized you need a sensibility!" she said. "Why am I here? What can I give you? I suppose I could make a blog on 'Lynn Sweet's thoughts about ... whatever!'" . . .
"If I had choice between writing about something Bush did, or a congressman did, or Obama, why wouldn't I go to something I saw people were backing? I just knew from the enormous amount of coverage Obama was getting that oooh, I knew I should be all things Obama. I never had a meeting; no one ever told me to do it. It was just like, I, I just smelled the coffee. I just understood that's what I could be about."
Thus, Ms Sweet became the news writer most closely associated with anything Obama. Frequently, on radio, she speaks on the subject she claims to know best, Obama. The go-getter from the President's hometown, Chicago, appears on most every television network. The ascent of the man who now resides in the White House helped boost Sweet's visibility. Today, she is considered as she designed herself to be, an acknowledged expert on the President. As reported in The New York Observer,
When Andrea Mitchell introduced Lynn Sweet for her mid-afternoon show on MSNBC on May 16, she said, "Lynn Sweet is with the Chicago Sun-Timesand has been covering him for years."
That's partially true. She has covered him for less than two years. She has spent the majority of her other three decades covering any other number of political stories in Chicago.
Yet, the depth of her knowledge matters not. Lynn Sweet has realized her dream. She is the media and the message. Since Barack Obama entered the scene, Sweet's inquires have become the dominant news of the day.
It matters not to Ms Sweet that each day, "If we do not act, 14,000 Americans will continue to lose their health insurance." She does not seem to think it exceedingly significant that "These are the consequences of inaction. These are the stakes of the debate we're having right now." What the President might wish to say seems meaningless to someone such as her. She rather know what Barack Obama thinks about topics that might propel her career. It appears, fame and fortune are her mission..
Americans might assume that this Reporter is not interested in what affects the electorate most. She made no reference to a reality that affects all Americans. Near fifty million citizens have no health care coverage. 2.3 million more people lose health coverage each year. The tale that might titillate, was Sweet's temptation. What was the President's reaction to a story on race.
She did not address the disparate treatment whites receive. Nor did she find her way to studies that show the ranks of the underinsured are on the rise. The invincible Lynn Sweet had other ideas. While countless worry that the cost of such a climb could be disastrous, the Columnist with a stated singular focus acted as though this might be superfluous.
For Ms Sweet it would appear that a moment of personal fame, or public fury, is her preference. Health Care reform will not be a concern for her as long as she remains popular. Perchance, the better word for what Lynn Sweet hopes to achieve is the term that currently defines her calling. She is without doubt a provocative and profitable professional.
References for the raiser of public rancor . . .
- Transcript of Obama Presidential Prime Time News Conference. Washington Post. July 22, 2009
- The story behind my Obama press conference question, By Lynn Sweet. Chicago Sun Times. July 23, 2009
- Sweet On Obama! By John Koblin. The New York Observer. May 20, 2008
- Obama pushes health care in opening statement. Cable News Network. July 22, 2009
- Sweet column reprise. Obama's book: What's real, what's not, By Lynn Sweet. Chicago Sun Times. August 8, 2004
- Ranks of Underinsured Are Rising, Study Finds. By Reed Abelson. The New York Times. June 10, 2008
- The Clock is Ticking. Families USA. July 2009
- PDsLynn Sweet Asks the President. Politics Daily. July 23, 2009
- "Dreams From My Father." By Barack Obama. 1995