OBAMA IN ASIA…. All week, administration officials have expressed a great deal of satisfaction with President Obama’s trip to Asia. And all week, U.S. reporters have told the country that the trip has been unproductive and unsuccessful. It’s probably worth taking a moment to note who’s right.

For its part, the White House seems genuinely pleased. In the president’s weekly address, Obama touted the importance of the trip, and explained why his efforts in Asia will pay dividends domestically. “I traveled to Asia to open a new era of American engagement,” the president said, before pointing to progress on national security, climate change, human rights, trade, and economic development.

Likewise, U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, the former Republican governor of Utah, explained yesterday that there’s been an important disconnect between U.S. media reports on the trip and reality. “I attended all those meetings that President Obama had with Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao,” Huntsman said, referring to the Chinese president and premier. “I’ve got to say some of the reporting I saw afterward was off the mark. I saw sweeping comments about things that apparently weren’t talked about, when they were discussed in great detail in the meetings.”

James Fallows noted this morning:

Two colleagues with different perspectives — from each other’s, and sometimes from my own — marvel at how badly the mainstream American press distorted the picture of what happened during Barack Obama’s just-ended tour of Asia. […]

We’re all familiar with one “crisis of the press,” the business collapse. This is a different kind of crisis, though it makes the business crisis worse: the distortion of reality by compressing every complex issue into the narrative of the DC-based “horse race.”

Fallows quoted one journalist, with extensive experience covering foreign policy, saying, “Even through a veil of censorship and propaganda, the Chinese people managed a clearer view of Obama’s visit than the U.S. media did.”

But just think of how many fascinating reports there were this week on Obama bowing!


As far as I can tell, U.S. political reporters covering the trip looked at this as if it were a campaign. The notion that the president may have been laying the diplomatic groundwork for future progress was completely lost, and incremental progress was ignored.

This was an important week for the administration. It’s a shame we don’t have a media establishment equipped to report on it.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.