Feb 1 2010


Nostalgia for Reaganesque Lies

Time columnist Joe Klein (12/3/09) was not altogether impressed by Obama’s decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan (an “iffy proposition,” as Klein put it). But Klein’s main gripe was that Obama should have justified the war differently: “Once you have made the decision to go, or to redouble your efforts, you must lead the charge—passionately and, yes, with a touch of anger.”

Then he described the better way: “Ronald Reagan would have done it differently. He would have told a story. It might not have been a true story, but it would have had resonance. He might have found, or created, a grieving spouse—a young investment banker whose wife had died in the World Trade Center—who enlisted immediately after the attacks…and then gave his life, heroically, defending a school for girls in Kandahar. Reagan would have inspired tears, outrage, passion, a rush to recruiting centers across the nation.”

It’s hard to say which is creepier: suggesting that a president should lie to drum up support for a war, or suggesting he should do so for a war you think is dubious to begin with.

WaPo’s Parallel Universe

In the world of columnist Robert Kagan (WashingtonPost.com, 12/02/09), Obama “bucked overwhelming conventional wisdom” to send more troops to Afghanistan, in the face of a “stunningly large number of American thinkers, strategists and pundits who have been perfectly prepared to lose wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.” Obama, Kagan wrote, realized that while he “might be applauded for losing in the salons of Washington and New York, the American public would not look on defeat so kindly,” so he stood up to the “willingness of the intellectual and foreign policy establishments to accept both decline and defeat.”

In reality, an overwhelming majority of the intellectual and foreign policy establishment—as represented by the opinion writers for the Washington Post as well as the New York Times—supported continued war in Afghanistan, with only a small minority suggesting that it’s possible to bring home the troops (Extra!, 12/09). It’s actually the public that’s skeptical of an endless pursuit of victory, with a majority of respondents in recent polling saying they oppose the war (e.g., CNN/Opinion Research, 11/13-15/09).

Why Must Oppositions Oppose?

Newsweek editor Jon Meacham (12/7/09) encouraged former VP Dick Cheney to run for president, saying this would be “good for the Republicans and good for the country.” If Cheney ran against Obama, Meacham asserted, then “whatever the result, there could be no ambiguity about the will of the people.”

His argument was that because John McCain was not George Bush, it was unclear what the citizenry meant by choosing Obama over him by a 10-million vote margin. This ambiguity allowed the Republican Party to oppose Obama’s proposals, and as Meacham says, “One of the problems with governance since the election of Bill Clinton has been the resolute refusal of the opposition party…to concede that the president, by virtue of his victory, has a mandate to take the country in a given direction.”

Aside from the implication that the Democrats behaved as a “resolute” opposition between 2001 and 2008, it’s hard to believe Obama’s Republican opposition would be more supportive if he had defeated Cheney instead of McCain. But equally perplexing is the suggestion by Meacham—who writes prize-winning books on U.S. history—that Congress is supposed to let presidents do whatever they want with the country. This rejection of the American tradition of separation of powers in favor of an all-powerful executive perhaps explains Meacham’s attraction to the idea of a Cheney 2012 campaign.

Brit Hume vs. the Vengeful Buddha

Former Fox anchor Brit Hume

(Fox News Sunday, 1/3/10) advised golfer Tiger Woods to “turn to Christianity” to get through his sex scandal-related troubles: “He is said to be a Buddhist. I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. My message to Tiger would be, ‘Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.’” A day later on Fox’s O’Reilly Factor (1/4/10), Hume denied that he had been “proselytizing,” saying that he just thinks “Jesus Christ offers Tiger Woods something that Tiger Woods badly needs.”

‘Bold New Strategies’

In a memo to staff at the Dallas Morning News and A.H. Belo’s other papers, editor Bob Mong and senior vice president of sales Cyndy Carr told editors of departments ranging from sports and entertainment to health and education that they would be reporting to sales managers instead of the editor, as one of the paper’s “bold new strategies” of “business/news integration.” As Robert Wilonsky of the Dallas Observer commented (Unfair Park, 12/3/09), “In short, those who sell ads for A.H. Belo’s products will now dictate content within A.H. Belo’s products, which is a radical departure from the way newspapers have been run since, oh, forever.”

Covering for Palin and the Post

The Washington Post’s decision to print an op-ed on “Climategate” by Sarah Palin (12/9/09; see page 6) prompted this exchange on CNN’s Reliable Sources (12/13/09) between host Howard Kurtz (who also works for the Post) and John Aravosis of Americablog:

ARAVOSIS: What newspapers aren’t supposed to do is present an issue that’s already decided as being a he said/she said of, hey, half the people say yes, half the people say no.

KURTZ: So you say it’s already decided.

ARAVOSIS: Ninety percent of scientists believe global warming is man-made.

KURTZ: And Sarah Palin has said that man-made activity contributes to global warming.

Actually, in Palin’s Post op-ed, she wrote:

But while we recognize the occurrence of these natural, cyclical environmental trends, we can’t say with assurance that man’s activities cause weather changes.

More SoundBites

January 2010