How should journalists cover Obama’s last two years? Ignore Fox News.
Just before the New Year, the Washington Post ran an article reminding us that two months into President Barack Obama’s first term, conservatives were already blaming him for tanking — perhaps deliberately — the U.S. stock market. In an essay published in 2009, Michael Boskin, a guy people take seriously who worked in the Bush White House, blamed Obama’s “radicalism” for terrifying investors. “[O]ur new president’s policies are designed to radically re-engineer the market-based U.S. economy.”
This kind of context and memory is rare these days in journalism. But I’ve been thinking about this for a while, long before Obama’s economy shifted into high gear and the Dow topped 18,000. Here’s the thing: conservatives keep getting it terribly, terribly wrong. And those of us in the media biz — journalists, in particular — keep playing along. And by “it” I mean just about everything. Their dire predictions. Their theories about Obama’s motivations. Their claims about his policies and their impacts.
I know how that sounds. It sounds “biased” or “partisan” or “liberal.” But I’m not any of those things. I am, in the final equation, a reporter. My job is to point out factual things, describing the best version of reality I can. And the truth is that again and again as journalists we’ve given conservatives the benefit of the doubt on claim after claim. We’ve peddled their narratives and given them the benefit of “equal time” and “balanced coverage” even when their past performance proved shockingly off-base and often turned out to represent deliberate falsification.
Here’s the thing: If these guys were businessmen, we would never, ever invest our dollars with them. But we keep spilling pages of ink and investing our own credibility in their accusations, theories, predictions and dire warnings. Here’s a partial list of the utter nonsense we’ve wasted America’s time with over the past half-decade. We covered Benghazi as if it were a real, smoking-gun Watergate-style scandal. Not just a dangerous muddle, the kind of bad thing that happens in a tough world, but evidence of some kind of dark conspiracy.
We covered the debate over “Obamacare” as if it might really involved death panels, or at the very least as if it might serve to “socialize” a big chunk of the American economy. We talked about the Affordable Care Act’s incompetently designed website as if that kind of human, bureaucratic (and, yes, stupid) misstep was somehow far more important than the millions of new Americans gaining access to healthcare.
We jumped on the idea that Obama’s foreign policy response to Russia’s militarism — economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation — was incompetent and naive, echoing concerns that the President might be essentially adolescent, long before any of the the measures had actually been implemented. (It turns out Russia’s economy is now in free-fall, thanks in part to the White House’s efforts.)
Early in the Obama years, we talked “even-handedly” about the Federal stimulus and the bailouts of banks and auto makers as if they might plausibly be harbingers of a new communist movement in America, even though those policies had long precedent in American administrations, Republican and Democrat, and had been launched under President Bush.
We journalists echoed talking points about Obama’s open border policy and his lack of focus on immigration enforcement, even as his administration rounded up and deported far more undocumented workers than any other White House. We talked (endlessly) about President Obama’s incompetence on the economy even as the U.S. steadily and consistently outperformed Europe, Japan and every other part of the world with the exception of China. We jabbered on about the White House’s anti-energy, tree-hugger, hippy renewable energy policies even as the U.S. transformed itself into a far more self-sufficient energy producer.
It is, taken together, a remarkably and even stunningly poor performance, roughly on par with our dismal incompetence in accepting the Bush administration’s claims for why America needed to go to war in Iraq. Rather than pushing hard for facts and evidence and needed context, we grabbed our stenographer’s pens and cheerfully echoed the most far-fetched, thinly-sourced nonsense that conservatives dished up.
I actually don’t think there’s much mystery about why this is happening.
The first reality is that media organizations today are fundamentally weaker than they were a generation ago, with fewer resources, fewer experienced reporters, less institutional memory and less professional courage. Crummy journalists grab onto the latest zeitgeistian set of blather and run with it in the hope that it will garner them lots of “hits” and “eyeballs.” If they’re lucky, a punchy headline will go viral or be posted on Drudge’s popular and often fundamentally dishonest website.
The actual hard work of digging toward the truth, debunking nonsense, and calling out the liars and demagogues and phonies? That rarely gets done anymore. And there’s almost no accountability. Pundits who get things horribly wrong get called back for more air time, not because they have a record of being factually correct, or because they’re committed to informing the public, but because they’re colorful and feisty and they “give good TV.”
The second reality is that the right has a highly disciplined message machine that incorporates Fox News (where an astonishing 47% of conservatives get their information), AM talk radio, a handful of influential editorial pages, Republican and tea party politicians, as well as a constellation of well-funded think-tanks and websites. These organizations skillfully push ideas and memes, even when they are demonstrably, factually false — and they do so with such efficiency and message discipline that in many cases the rest of the media ecology eventually goes along.
There’s no easy fix for our current media dilemma. But it’s worth noting that the old formula of “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” applies to the journalism community. We own this. And like any reporter who’s been fooled by a source, we need to dial up our skepticism to 11. It’s long past overdue that when our “colleagues” in the right wing media spin up tales about conspiracies or Kenyan birth certificates or socialist-anti-colonialist tendencies or Benghazi-style conspiracies, we demand clear, unequivocal evidence before the rest of our news organizations jump on board.
In fact, our baseline, public reaction — to conservative bloviators ranging from Dick Cheney to Rush Limbaugh to Bill O’Reilly — should be fairly simple: These are people who’ve gotten so much wrong, so often, and often through a well-documented intention to deceive that we simply shouldn’t trust them. These are, in the parlance of our trade, not credible sources.
Granted, that’s a frightening reality. It’s frightening when high-level politicians and media institutions of such power and influence are revealed as phonies and liars. But we’ve been here before from Joseph McCarthy to Richard Nixon to the architects of the Iran-Contra scandal. In the past, journalists found the courage and the skepticism necessary to “out” these leaders and to describe them accurately for what they were. Not in the pursuit of a partisan agenda but because our job, again, is to describe reality.
None of this is to suggest that there aren’t strong grounds for critical, independent, factual reporting about this White House. Some of that reporting should, if my guess is accurate, be scathing. But in these last two years of President Obama’s term, reporters would be well-served to remember that they’ve been gamed shamefully over and over since 2009. Our recent history of chasing after dog whistles and false alarms and red herrings will serve as one of the shabbiest chapters in a history of American journalism filled with shabby episodes.
The Washington Post’s recent exercise in memory and context? That was a good start. We all need to do more of that.
You think Benghazi was a “dangerous muddle”? Four Americans, including the Ambassador, were killed and the American people were fed a line of complete BS as to the cause, all under the watch of a Secretary of State who is arguably the front-runner in the next Presidential election and you think it was all part of a Fox News inspired conservative conspiracy? You’re breaking new ground here!
Maybe the solution is to report on the facts and not on the person.
Another way of putting it would be to report about others and you would have others report about you.
For people like Limbaugh and crew, it does seem they are having fun picking on Obama. They are proponents of the “kick them when they are up and keep them when they are down” school of journalism, if you can call it a school.
We all say and do stupid things, primarily because we are human. We often forget others are human too.
The trick is to be objective while realizing objectivity is always a goal and never a resting place.
Good luck, Brian. Happily, I don’t have to report on Obama. I don’t know enough about him or any other elected official other than to say I sometimes disagree and sometimes disagree with all of them.
Sorry for not proof reading. Should read: “kick them when are up and kick them when they are down.”
I basically agree, but I think it’s easy in hindsight. At the time of the bailouts, the massive monetary spending (it was massive and the debt is still massive) and the ACA all at once did seem radically different and I for one was against a good portion of all three. However I think as Brain points out, it wasn’t a disaster, it essentially worked or at least we will see how it works out, but it was not some sort of insane re-direction.
I think there is a third element at work and that is the theoretical economic baseline for most conservative thought, has in many ways in this same period of time been turned on its head. This is not just not the FOX news/Rush followers, this is the Chicago School of Economics. Reducing taxes on capital is supposed to create and spur investment, which is supposed to make the economy more productive, which is supposed to raise wages and make everyone better off. None of that has happened, none of that did happen. Federal reserve easy money policy, huge deficits and debt is supposed to create inflation, once again none of that happened. Its been long enough that conservative economists can’t just say well in the long run this will happen, well this is the long run and it has not happened yet.
So in some ways I am cutting the conservatives some slack, they really believed and still believe these principles, which are not just right wing thinking, but have had sound economic research behind them; until now, and the data to date kind of debunk them or at least show something is really wrong with them.
Brian, I am proud and thankful that as a NCPR reporter, you are first and foremost a journalist. You remind yourself and us of that repeatedly. I know that I am biased, partisan, and liberal, and am drawn to your style of journalism. I am cautious of my slant, and question that you are not biased, partisan or liberal. However, facts: the stock market, employment numbers, consumer confidence, enrollment numbers in the ACA, the price of gasoline, the dollar’s strength, the President’s pre-election immigration stance, and his election to the Presidency, not once, but also after the passage of the ACA and it’s constitutionality decision by the Supreme Court. Oh, I almost forgot..steady, moderate inflation.
The majority of the nation endorsed Mr. Obama. Our nation’s traditional benchmarks of our country’s strength have endorsed his six years in office. And I agree with your biased, partisan and liberal assessment.
Not that I don’t think you already Brian but the best advice I can offer is “be the change you want to see”. Hopefully others will follow.
Something that is missed here is that a lot of the so-called liberal media is controlled by major corporations with a conservative bent. Fox is the most egregious but the number of truly progressive/liberal major news operations is virtually nil. They are center right at best, not really all that liberal but too much to be seen as “one of us” by the far right. They tend to hire people who are fellow travellers or young people who easily fall into the corporate mold.
Add to that the right’s continued and disciplined insistence that trickle down works despite boatloads of evidence to the contrary and you have a fine atmosphere of delusional thinking that is self sustaining. We seem to a whole generation of people who sincerely believe they can create their own reality, that by saying something often enough they can make it true. Couple that with shouting down all dissent and you can sustain the illusion. It’s a strategy that works as has been shown repeatedly throughout history.
Ugh! Chicago School of Economics … an excellent example of intelligent people being wrong more often than not. Mervel talks bout this stuff as if nobody knew beforehand that these policies could work — but somebody knew. The people who insisted they would work knew.
The media is afraid, AFRAID, to actually interview and quote the people who tend to be correct on issue after issue: liberals/progressives.
The problem with journalism, besides that jobs are being cut, stories are written on deadline by too few people who are more and more overworked, and who are stuck in reporting ruts because they are too lazy to develop new sources, is that journalists are underpaid, overworked and lazy. The other thing that is wrong is that news outlets put out information without thinking critically about it.
Often a story will include numbers and it is as if nobody actually took out a pencil and calculator to see if the numbers make any sense. When a source states that the debt-to-GDP a ratio is unsustainable at 100% (making up a number ) stop and think about it. Where else do we see debt to revenue numbers in excess of 100%? First answer, for anyone who ever bought a home: virtually every home owner in the nation not in the top 1%.
Another helpful hint: never report on a subject you are afraid of, for example Ebola. Anyone with a brain knew that a widespread Ebola outbreak in the US was extremely unlikely, and yet reporters and commentators couldn’t stop peeing their pants.
How about this one: stop reporting on stuff that is meaningless but gets lots of coverage, like the vast majority of stories on the Dow Jones average. The Dow is pretty much useless information on a day to day or week to week or even month to month basis – there have been dozens of stories about this, and yet reporters and commenters keep going after the Dow of the day/hour/minute stories. Correlary: never give coverage to anyone who thinks they know why stocks went up or down on Wall Street any particular day – they DO NOT KNOW. Nobody knows. Nobody.
Courageous piece, Brian.
It seems to me one of the biggest fears journalists have these days is being labelled “biased.” The effect this has had is that even when the “other side” of a story is obviously suspect, or outright factually wrong, they still get equal consideration and airtime/print space. The idea that all issues have two (or more) credible sides and that all of them, regardless of reality, are worthy of being reported, is a warped concept of “balance.” One that has been ushered in by the message and PR machine you mention.
It is refreshing to see a journalist talk about this. Props for doing so.
First, we hear that liberals/Democrats can’t get anything done because of conservative/Republican opposition. Now that things are going well, we hear it is because liberal/Democrat theory was right all along. Can’t be both. Is it possible that the American political system is actually working well?
Excellent article. Well done.
Fox News is what it is. Outed years ago as propaganda press. It has it’s followers who are really not interested in objective reporting, they just need what they already believe reinforced. When you are wrong as often as they are, the credibility factor is gone.
The problem is that what most consider mainstream reporters do not do their job. They allow politicians to lie and give false supporting evidence for their position without calling them out on their statements during the interview.
A perfect example was this Sunday when Chuck Todd on ” Meet The Press” allowed Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) to misuse and make up false data ( lies) to support his position of why President Obama needs to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Barrasso claimed the State Department said it would create 42,000 new jobs. Well, the State Department never said that. It said it would “support” 42,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs, 99 percent of which would be temporary.” that is not job creation.
Furthermore, the final analysis of the State departments report stated that upon completion in two years “..only create 35 full-time jobs, and 15 temporary contractors” jobs would result from the project.
Sen. Barrasso challenged the president over job creation? Honestly? Look, even if the lie were true and 42,000 permanent jobs would be created, why did Todd not remind the Senator that 50,000 jobs EVERY WEEK and app. 229,000 a month for the last year according to the Washington Times?
Why did Chuck Todd not respond to Barrasso’s false job creation claims that even TransCanada, the company behind the project, has estimated the project would create 2,00-4,650 temporary jobs over the two year project?
Did chuck Todd go into that interview unprepared? Maybe. Or did he, like most reporters, allow his guest to say anything he wanted without questioning the facts?
I blame the press, they have allowed the truth to become the sacrificial lamb to the story.
I think blaming fox news is kind of a cop out.
I think we see bias on both sides, its not always just conservative bias, although certainly some of the coverage has been over the top. The press was very much in love with this President when he was elected, it was change and hope and all of that; it was HISTORIC, everything would be new, Bush was gone; and the press largely bought into that, so you can’t just label it all a conservative sham.
I think showing far right wing ideas i.e. birther stuff or socialism claims as just factually wrong is very important, but I think journalists spend more time reading fox news and worrying about it than the vast majority of mainstream Americans do. Most Americans didn’t think he was a socialist or a Muslim, certainly some do and did, but most do not and did not, most Americans are simply not that political, thank God. They don’t stay up nights worrying about what Fox News or MSNBC says, or what Salon or MOVEON or the Weekly Standard say and argue about.
Here’s why I disagree. First, Fox is a fundamentally new entity in American politics. It is essentially a conservative propaganda outlet that is the primary (and often the sole) source of news for 47% of conservatives.
No other media entity in modern American political history has had the power to influence the public or, by extension, the rest of the media culture, in quite this way.
Fox isn’t Drudge or Limbaugh. Fox is more powerful than the New York Times and the Washington Post ever were in their hey-day — and it is an entity that is fundamentally not committed to journalistic accuracy.
Also, you’re embracing one of the main errors that so many reporters have fallen into, which is the false-equivalence trap. Yes, real reporters sometimes get stories wrong. Sometimes we suffer from a herd mentality.
But there is a fundamental difference between those problems — which are, by the way, often far less pronounced than people claim — and the problem of a massively powerful broadcast entity that claims to be a news organization and is not.
I’ve gone back and looked at the coverage from 2009. I think the excitement of the coverage — first black president, etc. — was a bit over the top. But that’s not ‘the other side of the coin’ from five years of misinformation.
I believe trickle down is a valid theory, and most likely works and is working, as natural as gravity does.
the difference I see is it all runs from a spigot, and collectively, whomever, whatever hand’s on the valve has lost it.
society in general is not in a sharing space right now. the powers that be must know the plain truth- that things run out.
the reservoirs are only getting smaller, oil, water, food, money…. when this looms on the horizon, intelligence says to stem the outflow, but greed decides who will have to do with less, because “they don’t deserve any of my share”
the media is a tool used to make sure the proper people get what they “deserve”
mr Bullard has a nice thought about being the change.
fox news is stuck out of time.
we can’t fully enjoy fox news without the missing ingredient.
only then, in say a hundred years, will fox news mellow into the parody as some can currently see it.
I’m angry those “people” even have jobs and an income. they influence my world without living in it.
Brian, if I could give you a standing ovation via a simple text posting like this…I would. Bravo!
False equivalencies are epidemic and very rarely get exposed for what they are. Credible, responsible, ethical reporters should be striving to out these P.T. Barnums at every turn…but the journalistic ranks were cowed and, finally, subdued by the relentless – and demonstrably false – onslaught of “liberal media bias” charges. If 97% of the world’s climate scientists have reached the conclusion that man-made climate change is real but Fox manages to turn up someone here or there who disagrees, giving that person hours of air time is NOT fair and balanced equal coverage – it’s merely giving the opinions of a charlatan undue weight. And we fall into this trap again and again and again.
It’s depressing as hell to see the state of American journalism today and to hear people I know and love believing themselves to be well informed because they can regurgitate the unquestioned drivel fed to them by most media outlets.
Just when I thought you couldn’t out-do yourself, I read this:
“Fox is more powerful than the New York Times and the Washington Post ever were in their hey-day”
British editors have long told their reporters that, when talking with sources, ask yourselves:
“Why is this bastard lying to me?”
It’s meant to trigger skepticism and I think it ought to be top of mind for any U.S. news consumer.
We’re supposed to be an informed electorate and this means we have an obligation to question every politician’s veracity.
While it’s exhausting to assume everyone is lying, it’s naive to ignore their motivations. Same is true of news outlets. And that question is really good at exposing motivations.
If I can’t figure out WHY I’m being told something, I know it’s time for me to learn more about it. This is why it’s so important to have all the news and info sources we currently enjoy.
Some, like NPR, are committed to following and reporting the truth, no matter where it might lead.
Some, like Fox, are committed to misleading and the truth doesn’t matter.
Larry, you honestly think that Fox News viewership is less than the NYT readership? Seems like a real stretch to me.
“January 2014 marked Fox News’s 145th consecutive month as the number one rated cable news channel. During that month, Fox News beat CNN and MSNBC combined in overall viewers in both prime time hours and the total day.” (Wikipedia)
Couple that with
“Television is the main place Americans say they turn to for news about current events (55%), leading the Internet, at 21%. Nine percent say newspapers or other print publications are their main news source, followed by radio…” (Gallup: TV Is Americans’ Main Source of News) That same Gallup poll shows Fox as the number one source for TV news (at 8%), and the New York Times as tied with the Wall St. Journal (also Murdoch-owned) at 1% each.
So go ahead, Larry– make your case that Brian’s statement is absurd.
(Meanwhile, I’m sorry I looked this up! Talk about depressing!)
Absolutely. At peak audience times, Fox has more than 2.5 million viewers. At the height of their circulation success in the 1990s, the New York Times was selling 1.8 million papers — and that was their Sunday edition.
Even in the 90s, the New York Times never served as the sole source of information for a large slice of the American electorate. Fox does, sadly, fill that niche for many conservatives.
Fox is also far, far more disciplined and effective at wielding that clout, identifying and staying with particular messages in a fashion that reflects advertising and propaganda strategies, rather than journalistic goals.
Finally, Fox is closely integrated with Republican and conservative operatives, often keeping several potential presidential candidates on payroll at any given time. (One of them just stepped down to prepare for a possible 2016 run.)
No other media company has ever matched that kind of power. No organization committed to actual journalism would ever behave in that fashion.
I was thinking more about “powerful” as in having greater influence. No matter, I get your point. Now that you’ve moved on from Denton Publications to Fox News, who’s next?
The irony in all this is that Obama, for the most part, has governed as a Rockefeller Republican.
I have to say when I see a line like this:
“The actual hard work of digging toward the truth, debunking nonsense, and calling out the liars and demagogues and phonies? That rarely gets done anymore. ”
I have to wonder, could this actually start right at NCPR?
Finger pointing is good, especially when you have a mirror near by.
“could this actually start right at NCPR?”
NPR is under constant “threat” from the political party that does not like it when journalists dig for the truth and debunk nonsense. You can just about set your clock to the annual or biennial call from someone in the GOP to defund NPR. So while NPR can do its best to maintain journalistic integrity and avoid false equivalency, I always worry that they are in a situation where they have to watch their back and avoid stepping on too many toes too many times. It is an unfortunate dynamic.
It seems like every threat to de-fund NPR leads to a backlash by the people of the districts who rely on NPR for news and entertainment the most – people in rural areas especially where there is little choice. My perception is that for a while many Republican representatives refused to be interviewed on NPR. Then they tried to de-fund it and they heard from their constituents. Shortly afterwards Republicans seemed to be appreciative of the opportunity to be interviewed on NPR and would talk about how it is “always a pleasure” to talk to NPR reporters. So, things do change for the better sometimes.
To Dave’s point, watch how long the now Republican controlled Congress takes to call for de-funding Public radio and Public television….By the way, who’s total annual Federal funding support for both is about the same as what the Pentagon spends annually on its marching bands based across the world. That is to say, about $450 million per year. Put another way, about the same cost as 1 and 1/2 F-35 fighter planes….
Jeb Bush, the GOP’s “Moderate” Candidate
In a fascinating article in The Nation Jan. 12, 2015, Eric Alterman castigates the NY Times’ political reporting for putting out the false narrative of a Republican Party composed of two competing factions, one “conservative” and the other “moderate” or even “centrist” when, “in fact, the party has been “wholly taken over by ideologues so extreme that their views–and policy proposals–bear no resemblance to the laws of science, economics or, in many cases, reality. But the Times’s reports consistently elide this truth up to and including omitting crucial facts in order to craft a false and far more comforting fable.”
In support of this thesis, Alterman points out that the GOP’s “moderate” or “centrist”candidate, Jeb Bush,
1. Endorsed Paul Ryan’s punitive budget that seeks to zero out virtually all federal assistance to the poor.
2. Opposes women’s right to choose abortion.
3. Sees “very strong” justification” for voter I.D. laws designed to reduce minority participation.
4. Personally believes gay couples should be denied legal adoption rights, and legal protections for LGBT citizens, calling them “special rights.
5. “He happily signed the NRA’s stand your ground legislation.”
6. He has moved from the completely ridiculous position of disputing the fact of global warming to the only slightly less ridiculous one of questioning whether it is ‘disproportionately man-made,” and
7. “On Cuba, he has consistently sided with the crazies.”
What does J. Bush have to do with how journalists cover Obama? More on point would be how is the media covering Obama’s self-admitted mistake in not having better representation at the Paris anti-terror march or his poorly thought out community college scheme. We don’t need Fox News to point out that Obama is self destructing before our eyes.
I would agree that Fox news is unique, I would also agree that it is essentially not news. The question however is what do you do? Certainly the other side of the political coin could start up the same sort of operation, I think MSNBC essentially operates like Fox they are just not as popular, but they are not factual anymore than fox is. I think CNN is somewhat biased, but they really do try to maintain a news slant. So who are the journalists that are supposed to stand up to all this fabrication? CBS, NBC, the major newspapers? They are all essentially losing market share, they don’t have a true national audience anymore. Outside of NCPR when Brian refers to “we” ion the above article, I am not sure who he is talking about anymore.
As far as journalism is concerned, covering Obama fairly or unfairly is one thing; I find it a little shocking that most of the so called liberal progressive news organizations including NPR who say they are standing with the people in France and at the Charlie magazine, are still too afraid to even publish this months cover picture, they have self censored, so I don’t know how we can expect them to be unbiased in other realms.
We all self censor, all the time. That is how we maintain civil society. Americans really can’t take free speech. The French are better at it but everyone else looks at the French and thinks they are arrogant a**holes most of the time. Still, they are our oldest friends as a nation and I am somewhat amused to hear right-wing nuts who usually hate the French and change the name to Freedom Fries all of a sudden being big defenders of the French and Free Speech.
And those same types of people are angry at Obama that he didn’t go to Paris or send Biden when usually they are ranting about Obama wasting money flying all around the world on ego trips. Didn’t our ambassador attend the Paris rally? Let us remember that our ambassador is a major figure in France – filling the shoes of the likes of Ben Franklin and Thom Jefferson before.
So take it from me, someone who knew the French were great allies even when Fox News ridiculed them, the people at Fox are blowhards and people who watch it are fools.
The Obama administration’s failure to send a high profile representative to Paris exposes their lack of a cogent foreign policy. I mean, the President of the Palestinian Authority attended but the US couldn’t figure out the benefits of making a strong statement of support? They ( the Obama administration) just never think things all the way through. They admit their mistake but you continue to categorize those who point out their failings as “blowhards” and “fools”. As always, the liberal fall-back strategy is ridicule.
I think your comment exemplifies how the Fox News cycle works. I know this is a meme that they (and other conservative media) are pushing. But think it through.
Why do you suddenly think that it was important for the President of the United States to travel to France to support a protest march? Why do you think it’s important for Barack Obama to emulate the behavior of the President of the Palestinian Authority? (Or a group of European leaders, for that matter?)
Assume for the sake of argument that it was a symbolic misstep for the White House not to send a higher-level representative to this event. How would that fit into the larger context of this administration’s highly lethal, targeted take-down of terrorist leaders around the world?
In other words, is there really a logical connection between this event and the Obama administration’s actual waging of the war on terror? Or is that merely a phrase that’s being repeated over and over?
On the other hand, wouldn’t it have been great for the Bush administration to have sent Dick Cheney to the protests against the War in Iraq? Maybe it should be a new policy for Presidents to attend any march around the world, and most especially at home, that gathers more than say 250,000 people.
Brian, I don’t know anything about the Fox News cycle as I don’t watch it, ever. Your comment exemplifies a simplistic viewpoint liberals have of all conservatives as brain-dead zombies being manipulated by Fox bogeymen. It’s far more complex than that. As for the substantive part of your comments, we don’t have to assume that the Obama administration made a mistake, they admit it! Mahmoud Abbas knows that he has a better chance of gaining support for Palestinian statehood if he presents himself as a statesman instead of a terrorist, a bold plan for someone who spent his public life working with Yasser Arafat. Still, it’s a plan, something Obama lacks completely. Killing people with drones and commando raids isn’t a policy likely to endear us to many people around the world; in fact, it mirrors the actions of the very people we are targeting. A more astute statesman (think Reagan at the Berlin Wall) would have never missed the opportunity to present himself as an opponent of intolerance, violence and repression. I prefer to think of Obama as clueless; to think he does these things purposefully is too much, even for me.
Actually, Larry, my comment reflects actual data about how conservatives consume and use news and information. Also, it reflects my own analysis of how Fox’s memes spread through the media culture.
It’s accurate that the White House has said that they should have sent a higher level representative to the protest in Paris. They haven’t, it goes without saying, accepted the much wider conservative meme about what that decision says about this administration or its war on terror.
More broadly, yes, Ronald Reagan chose to go to Berlin. But Barack Obama chose to go to Cairo and he gave an incredibly forceful speech about these issues.
“America is not — and never will be — at war with Islam,” he said. “We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security — because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.”
It’s important to remember that he was excoriated by the right for going to Cairo and making that speech.
When people strip this last week’s series of events from that larger context, from history, from a balanced assessment of the last six years of the war on terror, from the consistent drumbeat of questions about Mr. Obama’s own identity and loyalties, the result is wildly skewed.
I’m not suggesting that the Obama administration deserves high marks for its handling of foreign affairs. But again, it is fair and even vital to see it in the larger history of our engagement with the Middle East and Islam.
Again, yu mention Reagan. What role did he play in the history of America’s involvement with Islamic radicals? What progress did he bring in making the US safer? How does the Beirut bombing or the Iran-Contra deal or his decision to arm the Afghan Mujahadeen fit into your assessment of his successes vis a vis those of Barack Obama?
“I think your comment exemplifies how the Fox News cycle works.”
Don’t change the subject. You made the comment above in direct reference to my earlier comment. I don’t follow Fox News so your comment is incorrect. It has nothing to do with data or analysis, it has to do with whether or not my comment was influenced by Fox News. You included me in your narrative and you were wrong. If you want to continue to blather about Fox News go right ahead, just leave me out of it and understand that I am hardly unique in my approach to conservatism.
Sure, Obama made a great speech in Cairo and what came of it? Nothing. Was everything Reagan did great? No. We did, however, win the Cold War under his leadership. Was it a perfect, all encompassing victory? No. Still, one of the signal achievements of the 20th century. What has Obama done that compares?
Obama has ended two worthless wars and has kept us from making an even bigger policy blunder by invading Syria and being allied with the so called Syrian rebels–who we know now are ISIS. I don’t agree with a lot of what he has done, but on foreign policy I am in agreement with him. My only complaint is he has not acted more aggressively in ending our foreign war entanglements and he needs to do much much more on our dismantling of our big government presence throughout the globe.
Not going to Paris was a very very minor thing.
We have not invaded Iran and Syria and we have left Iraq and Afghanistan. These are things that we would be doing if Romney had won, can you imagine?
Larry, he didn’t say that your comment was influenced by Fox News; he said your comment worked the same way the Fox News cycle works.
You frequently take umbrage when others put words in your mouth. Do unto others…
“…two worthless wars.” Obama ended them all right, by ceding control of Iraq to ISIS and control of Afghanistan to the Taliban, the results of which we are already experiencing. I guess it is a sort of foreign policy, just not one that benefits the US.
OL, the statement above is plainly false. Iraq and Afghanistan both have governments which are responsible for their own security. ISIS didn’t exist when we left and the Taliban haven’t taken over Afghanistan – though there seem to be hints that the Talibs are becoming active in Iraq to some extent which is a very new turn of events. Nor are we completely out of Afghanistan – just not out front in conflict. Understanding foreign policy demands nuanced thinking.
And you have conveniently ignored BM’s statement about Reagan’s fingerprints in helping grow Islamic radicalism we are fighting now.
KHL, before you achieve the same status you ascribe to those who watch Fox News, check your facts. ISIS dates back to ’99, and took part in the insurgency that followed the invasion of Iraq. Also, I acknowledged that Reagan’s Cold War victory was imperfect, as such victories often are. Would you criticize FDR for arming the Soviet Union during WW II? War often produces strange alliances.
OL, here is where it becomes complicated — and I am glad you are paying some attention because this is where we tie Ronald Reagan to ISIS.Abu Musab al-Zarqawi started his career as a terrorist with the Mujaheddin (who were supported by Reagan) in Afghanistan in 1989. He bumbled around in various terrorist groups dealing out death, but it wasn’t until after the American withdrawal from Iraq did IS/ISIS/ISIL form.
So, yes, often there are strange alliances formed during wartime, but rarely do we see any as bad as those tied to Ronald Reagan. And I have to admit Stalin was probably the worst ever!!!! He killed more people than even Hitler. Still, for being President at such a relatively peaceful time Reagan must get some credit as the President most willing to deal with the Devil.
We are not the world’s police. Why would we cede anything in some foreign country? We don’t have that role; to cede or not to cede in some other country. Maybe the Middle East wants to be ruled by ISIS? Certainly they have more support then pretty much anyone in the West wants to admit (with the exception of Mayer). But regardless that is there choice, if they don’t want ISIS they should not have put down their weapons and ran when ISIS showed up in Iraq. But I guess OL, you think its better to have US soldiers die and US taxpayers fight when our well trained Iraqi army, which we spent literally BILLIONS training, turned and ran.
The whole thing is a quagmire, it’s not Vietnam, it’s Vietnam on steroids.
President Obama for all his problems, recognized that Vietnam was not a good war, did not work and that these middle east wars were just the same even worse. He had the vision to see that, when many others wanted to stay in a quagmire and actually increase our role in this entanglement; with no defined outcome, no measure of victory and no end date. I give him a lot of credit for that.
I know where they can send cheney…..!
Enough with the Middle East – Vietnam comparisons! It’s not the same thing, not even close.
Well, I can agree with OL that Vietnam and the Middle East is a poor comparison.
The Middle East is a very complicated place which includes dozens of countries, dozens of various religious groups and subsets of groups, many scores of different ethnic groups, and a very complicated history of empires, invaders from within and without. So to say that they want to be ruled by IS is nonsense.
The soldiers who laid down their arms and ran did so because the government we (the US and allies) helped to set up wouldn’t allow members of the Saddam Hussein regime – the people who knew how to run the government and military – to serve and when their commanders disappeared the lower level troops tried to escape as well. Had there been a disciplined command structure in place things would have very likely been very different. And the civilian population was simply not equipped to fight off this rag tag army, they concentrated on individual strategies to save themselves and their families.
The Middle East is an excellent illustration of the importance of the maintenance of governmental structure and authority above nearly all other concerns. The foreign policy of Obama (which those on the Right scorn) recognizes that reality; change in regime must be done deliberately and with care to leave the institutions of government intact. Otherwise everyone ends up facing decades of blowback.