Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Our Media: deliberately misleading assertions Edition

Atrios says that Apparently  Obama makes Fineman's penis just a little bit smaller. 
Boehlert: Newsweek's Howard Fineman: Obama thinks he's all that
This must be one of the stranger White House critiques I've read in quite a while [emphasis added]:
Obama can seem a mite too impressed with his own aura, as if his presence on the stage is the Answer. There is, at times, a self-referential (even self-reverential) tone in his big speeches. They are heavily salted with the words "I" and "my." (He used the former 11 times in the first few paragraphs of his address to the U.N. last week.) Obama is a historic figure, but that is the beginning, not the end, of the story.
Does Obama constantly refer to himself as an historic figure? Not that I can tell. But maybe Fineman's hearing something else from Obama.
As for Obama's speech to the U.N., which Fineman claimed was way too self-referential, let's take a quick look at the text:
I come before you humbled by the responsibility that the American people have placed upon me, mindful of the enormous challenges of our moment in history, and determined to act boldly and collectively on behalf of justice and prosperity at home and abroad. I have been in office for just nine months -- though some days it seems a lot longer.  I am well aware of the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world.  These expectations are not about me.  Rather, they are rooted, I believe, in a discontent with a status quo that has allowed us to be increasingly defined by our differences, and outpaced by our problems. 
Yeah, Obama just needs to get over himself.
Richard Cohen's columns are getting increasingly difficult to read, and even more difficult to understand.
Sooner or later it is going to occur to Barack Obama that he is the president of the United States. As of yet, though, he does not act that way, appearing promiscuously on television and granting interviews like the presidential candidate he no longer is. The election has been held, but the campaign goes on and on. The candidate has yet to become commander in chief.
Take last week's Group of 20 meeting in Pittsburgh. There, the candidate-in-full commandeered the television networks and the leaders of Britain and France to give the Iranians a dramatic warning. Yet another of their secret nuclear facilities had been revealed and Obama, as anyone could see, was determined to do something about it -- just don't ask what.
As criticism goes, this is pretty odd. President Obama talking to television reporters about current events from the White House is, apparently, not "presidential." Why? Because Richard Cohen says so. The public disagrees -- recent polls show Americans entirely comfortable with the amount of time the president spends communicating through the media -- but that apparently doesn't matter.
But more important is the notion that Obama, standing alongside British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, was also not presidential enough in publicly revealing the existence of a secret Iranian nuclear facility. The problem, as Cohen sees it, is that the Western leaders warned Iran, but were vague about potential consequences.
It's unclear why Cohen found this so offensive. Obama's goal was to give the U.S. leverage, and put Iran on the defensive, in advance of this week's talks in Geneva -- representatives of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Germany, and Iran will meet, and Obama, Brown, and Sarkozy added an increased "sense of urgency" to the discussions.
Indeed, President Obama seems to have played this very well. After achieving a victory on Thursday with the U.N. Security Council, his remarks on Friday had exactly the intended effect. Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, said Obama "played Iran perfectly, to isolate Iran, unite all the other countries around him, with an open hand to Iran, and then he springs the trap." Even a Washington Times columnist noted, "Not only did the president look strong, he looked cunning."
So what is Cohen whining about?
The columnist added:
The trouble with Obama is that he gets into the moment and means what he says for that moment only. He meant what he said when he called Afghanistan a "war of necessity" -- and now is not necessarily so sure. He meant what he said about the public option in his health-care plan -- and then again maybe not. He would not prosecute CIA agents for getting rough with detainees -- and then again maybe he would.
Most tellingly, he gave Congress an August deadline for passage of health-care legislation -- "Now, if there are no deadlines, nothing gets done in this town . . . " -- and then let it pass. It seemed not to occur to Obama that a deadline comes with a consequence -- meet it or else.
Obama lost credibility with his deadline-that-never-was, and now he threatens to lose some more with his posturing toward Iran.
When Obama called Afghanistan a "war of necessity," he was talking about the merits of launching the war, not with the value in sticking with an ineffective policy in the country. That's not a flip-flop or a lack of commitment; it reflects an ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
Obama has never wavered in his support for a public option. Obama's position on prosecuting torturers didn't shift at all, though the Justice Department had its own ideas.
Obama didn't "lose credibility" because Congress couldn't wrap up health care reform before August -- he gave lawmakers a target, which they missed. Nevertheless, the reform effort is further along than it's ever been, and that's due almost entirely to the president's efforts.
Cohen's entire piece sounds like he's trying too hard to complain about Obama for no particular reason. He wants Obama to "understand" he's the president and should act accordingly. I want Cohen to understand he's an influential media figure and should act accordingly, too.
Update: Tim Fernholz is thinking along the same lines.
Ya'll come.  You too can join Cohen at the Post . . .
Yglesias: WaPost Pundit Talent Search
The Washington Post is launching a political pundit talent search:
Here’s your chance to put your opinions to the test — and win the opportunity to write a weekly column and a launching pad for your opinionating career!
Start making your case.
Use the entry form to send us a short opinion essay (400 words or less) pegged to a topic in the news and an additional paragraph (100 words or less) on yourself and why you should win. Entries will be judged on the basis of style, intelligence and freshness of argument, but not on whether Post editors agree or disagree with your point of view. Entry deadline: Oct. 21, 2009 at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Huh. If only The Washington Post employed some kind of talented young political opinion writer in some other capacity and could give him an op-ed column instead of resorting to this sort of method. Be that as it may, suppose you were setting out to try to win this, what would you do? Remember, you’re trying to impress the people who decided that they needed to add Bill Kristol to a columnist roster that already included George Will and Charles Krauthammer. So one school of thought says that your 400 word sample column should contain some deliberately misleading assertions. Another school says you just turn in clean copy but during your 100 word “about me” graf should just make it clear that you share the sort of casual contempt for the truth and disrespect for the audience that is the hallmark of the Post op-ed page.
At any rate, I heartily encourage everyone to apply!
Atrios says Every Time I Try To Get Out...
I really was going to try to avoid Polanski blogging, but then Richard Cohen referred to drugging and raping a 13 year old over clear objections as her being "seduced."

What is wrong with these people?

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