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IMAGINE ALL THE PUNDITS! The Post’s Gene Robinson just couldn’t wait to mention Obama’s middle name: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2006

UNDER THE DEAN DOME: Astonishing. In today’s Post, David Broder offers the following assessment of two Ford Admin alumni. Earlier in his column, Broder has described “the alumni of the Ford administration” as a “notable group:”
BRODER (12/28/06): Many of those alumni who first exercised real power under Ford remained active in government. For all that he has borrowed from Ronald Reagan, President Bush owes the greatest debt to three stalwarts of economic and national security policy inherited from Ford—Vice President Cheney and former defense secretary Don Rumsfeld, both former chiefs of staff to Ford, and former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, Ford's chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.
According to the ever-astonishing Dean, Rumsfeld and Cheney are “stalwarts of national security policy” to whom Bush “owes the greatest debt.” That’s astounding. What more can you say?

As we’ve told you: It’s very hard to convey the depth of our millionaire pundit corps’ dysfunction—and to date, we liberals have failed to do so. Until we find ways to describe this group to the public, we liberals and progressives will have a hard time shaping the national discourse.

Special report: Our “man of the year!”


PART 1—IMAGINE ALL THE PUNDITS: Ceaseless dreamers can imagine a world in which “liberal” pundits act like same. In reality, we have the likes of Gene Robinson. As “liberal” pundits are wont to do, he passed on some groaning RNC spin in this passage concerning Obama:
ROBINSON (12/22/06): He has a couple of big problems, too, even if you figure that his name alone—Barack Hussein Obama—isn't enough to turn some people off. First is the fact that at 45, the senator looks barely 30. A president needs gravitas, not boyishness. Isn't there some sort of reverse Grecian Formula on the market that can give Obama some gray hair?
Why in the world would a “liberal” pundit toss off this reference to Obama’s middle name? Of course! Because the swift-boat gang has tossed it into the stew—and the weak, inane people who make up our “press corps” feel obliged to recite the RNC’s spin-points, no matter how inane they may be. You’d think a “liberal” might even criticize this stupid appeal to irrational fear (sample column below). But Robinson simply passed the inanity on, without a word of comment.

No, our “man of the year” won’t be Robinson; we’ll announce our honoree tomorrow. But Robinson’s column, on Obama and Hillary Clinton, was a masterwork of script-recitation—a column in which a “liberal” used his considerable power to recite pseudo-conservative points. Indeed, before he got to Obama’s middle name, Robinson tossed off the two points which follow. Good grief! Heaven help us! Where do they find such “liberals?”
ROBINSON: The other problem is that many Democrats are certain that if [Hillary Clinton] gets the nomination, she'll lose in the general election. Democrats want badly to win in 2008, and Clinton has to be concerned at how much support Obama has attracted in such a short time.

Obama, meanwhile, has the advantage of perfect timing—he has streaked to national prominence at a moment when his party and perhaps his country are desperately in search of something new.

The fact that he has been in the Senate only a couple of years means that he hardly has a voting record for opponents to pick apart. From the beginning, he was consistently against the war in Iraq—not that he was in a position to do anything about it. Unless there's more to come out, his questionable real estate deal in Chicago doesn't rise to anywhere near the level of Whitewater.
According to Robinson, Obama’s real estate deal “doesn’t rise” to the level of Whitewater—a “scandal” which turned out to be a hoax! (Of course, Robinson’s Post hyped this “scandal” for years, even after the hoax was apparent.) And good grief! Robinson says that “many Democrats” are certain that Clinton would lose the general election—but he fails to note that she’s running ahead in some national polls, leading McCain by seven points in a recent Newsweek survey. With “liberal” pundits like this on the prowl, who needs to bother with pseudo-conservatives? Robinson’s column would have made perfect sense—if posted at townhall.com.

Readers, let’s try to imagine a world in which “liberal’ columnists acted like same. Here’s the full passage Robinson typed—followed by what he might have written in that alternate universe:
WHAT ROBINSON ACTUALLY WROTE: The other problem is that many Democrats are certain that if she gets the nomination, she'll lose in the general election. Democrats want badly to win in 2008, and Clinton has to be concerned at how much support Obama has attracted in such a short time.

Obama, meanwhile, has the advantage of perfect timing—he has streaked to national prominence at a moment when his party and perhaps his country are desperately in search of something new.

The fact that he has been in the Senate only a couple of years means that he hardly has a voting record for opponents to pick apart. From the beginning, he was consistently against the war in Iraq—not that he was in a position to do anything about it. Unless there's more to come out, his questionable real estate deal in Chicago doesn't rise to anywhere near the level of Whitewater. And his oratorical gifts are truly remarkable, at least equal to Bill Clinton's and perhaps on a par with the skills of Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator. Yes, he can talk.

He has a couple of big problems, too, even if you figure that his name alone—Barack Hussein Obama—isn't enough to turn some people off.
Good God, that’s awful! Now, imagine what you might have read in that alternate world—in a universe where “liberal” pundits actually acted like same:
WHAT ROBINSON MIGHT HAVE WRITTEN: The other problem is that many Democrats are certain that if she gets the nomination, she'll lose in the general election. Such Dems may be unduly nervous—Clinton leads McCain by 7 points in a recent Newsweek national poll. But Democrats want badly to win in 2008, and Clinton has to be concerned by primary voters’ perceptions, even those which may not be well founded.

Obama, meanwhile, has the advantage of perfect timing—he has streaked to national prominence at a moment when his party and perhaps his country are desperately in search of something new.

The fact that he has been in the Senate only a couple of years means that he hardly has a voting record for opponents to pick apart. From the beginning, he was consistently against the war in Iraq—not that he was in a position to do anything about it. And his oratorical gifts are truly remarkable, at least equal to Bill Clinton's and perhaps on a par with the skills of Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator. Yes, he can talk.

He does have a few problems. For example, conservative spinners are trying to scare people about his middle name—“Hussein.” Yes, the approach is inane—and borderline racist. (Obama’s father was Kenyan. “Hussein” is a common name in that country.) But such tactics have often worked in the past—and if Democrats and liberals don’t fight back, such “swift boat”-style attacks may work again with some voters.
At this point, that “questionable” real estate deal is so trivial that we’d simply omit it. But if we mentioned it, we certainly wouldn’t bring up Whitewater—unless we wanted to say how easy it is to make mountains of molehills. But not Robinson! At the RNC, the idiots cheered when the Post scribe went out of his way to mention Whitewater. And when he tossed in “Hussein,” they laughed till they cried! But so it goes with our “liberal” pundits—scribes who seem to feel obliged to recite the RNC’s dumbest points.

TOMORROW: Our “man of the year” is a “liberal,” too. His book—and that column—took the prize.

THERE THEY GO AGAIN: Uh-oh—there they go again! In this December 17 report about Obama’s real estate deal, the Post’s Peter Slevin manages to misstate the simplest facts:

SLEVIN (12/17/06): In June 2005, in what Obama now describes as a "boneheaded" mistake, Obama and Rezko's wife bought adjacent properties on Chicago's South Side, closing the deals on the same day. Seven months later, wanting a bigger yard for his $1.65 million house, Obama bought a slice of the Rezko property for $104,500.
In fact, Obama says that his “boneheaded mistake” came much later in the story. Here’s the report which Slevin bungles, from the Chicago Tribune’s Rick Pearson:
PEARSON (12/15/06): Obama acknowledged "it was stupid" of him to get involved in the purchase almost one year ago of a strip of property adjoining his $1.65 million home from Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who owned a vacant lot next door. Rezko, a political insider and fundraiser, was indicted in October on charges of trying to extort campaign donations and kickbacks from firms seeking state business. Rezko has pleaded not guilty.

"I am the first one to acknowledge that it was a boneheaded move for me to purchase this 10-foot strip from Rezko, given that he was already under a cloud of concern," Obama said. "I will also acknowledge that from his perspective, he no doubt believed that by buying the piece of property next to me that he would, if not be doing me a favor, it would help strengthen our relationship.
Speaking of boneheads, do our presidential-level political “reporters” ever manage to get anything right? Plainly, Obama didn’t say that his “boneheaded mistake” involved the original purchase of the “adjacent properties,” as Slevin mistakenly states. In fact, Obama says his mistake occurred seven months later, when he bought that strip of land from Rezko. Plainly, Slevin misstates what Obama told Pearson (Obama made similar statements to Slevin himself). Slevin’s mistake may seem minor. But if you followed Whitewater or Campaign 2K, you may already know the following: This is how our dumbest pseudo-scandals sometimes get themselves started.

For the record, here’s Slevin’s description of the transaction which Obama calls a boneheaded mistake. Surely, anyone can see how deeply Obama misbehaved in this matter:
SLEVIN: Later, the Obamas bought a 10-foot-by-150-foot piece of the lot for $104,500. An appraisal put the value of the strip at $40,500, a spokesman said, but Obama considered it fair to pay one-sixth of the original price for one-sixth of the lot.
There you have it—there’s your scandal! Obama was so “on the take” from Rezko that he grossly overpaid for his land! But don’t worry. If your press corps wants to make that a scandal, they can find a way do so—just as they did, for eight or nine years, with the Whitewater nonsense.

For the record, we see no sign that the mainstream press corps wants to go after Obama in the way they did with Clinton, then with Gore. But here’s the basic question we ask: Would it kill them to get even simple facts right? Would it kill Slevin—and his slumbering “editors”—to describe what Obama really said?