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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Washington Post has a very solid editorial about the so-called “scandals” today. It’s a damn shame that the Post’s headline writers decided to seriously distort what it says.

The Washington Post has an editorial today that takes a clear stance on the deeply bogus nature of the current GOP attacks on Obama. The title – “Obama a new Nixon? Oh get serious” — very accurately suggests the tone of the piece.
But, startlingly, directly below this title on the online Post’s opinion page is a subtitle that profoundly alters and deeply undercuts its message
The subtitle says “But Obama’s misdeeds aren’t trivial”
Whoa, Hang on. Stop the clock. Wait a minute. That’s a very nasty little allegation. It claims that Obama has actually committed “misdeeds.” Misdeeds that “aren’t trivial.” That’s a profoundly serious accusation and one that essentially says that there is indeed some degree of truth to the Republican attacks.
Now if that’s what the editorial itself argues then there’s nothing wrong with this subtitle. But, in fact, there is actually nothing in the editorial itself that supports this accusation.
Here’s how the editorial frames the basic issue:

Nixon, in a series of crimes that collectively came to be known as Watergate, directed from the White House and Justice Department a concerted campaign against those he perceived as political enemies, in the process subverting the FBI, the IRS, other government agencies and the electoral process to his nefarious purposes. Mr. Obama has done nothing of the kind.

The Post editorial writers then review each issue in turn:

(1) “The Benghazi talking points scandal is no scandal whatsoever. …there was no cover-up of the failure and no conspiracy to deceive the American people about what had happened.”
(2) “The broad search of telephone records from the Associated Press in search of a government leaker seems, on all available evidence, to have been a dangerous and unjustified violation of normal Justice Department practice, …[but] There’s no reason to believe that Mr. Obama knew anything about it.”
(3) “The IRS targeting conservative opponents of Mr. Obama for special scrutiny is horrifying and inexcusable….But there is so far no evidence of White House knowledge or instigation of the practice.”

So, OK Washington Post headline writers, please explain exactly where are the “misdeeds” Obama committed – misdeeds that “aren’t trivial”
Well, the editorial does indeed say this:

…the president’s unwillingness to condemn [the search of telephone records] is sadly consistent with his administration’s record of damaging the First Amendment in its ill-advised pursuit of leakers.

O.K. But does that criticism actually merit a subhead that essentially contradicts the main thrust of the editorial and says “Let’s be fair, there is indeed some merit to the Republican claims”?
Aside from this, there is only one other direct criticism of the president in the editorial:

For its part, the administration this week has seemed at times arrogant and at others defensive and flat-footed. When the second-term team took shape a few months ago, we worried about the preponderance of staff loyalists over people of independent stature. Mr. Obama’s advisers are smart and hardworking, but when you think about his first-term circle — including Robert M. Gates, Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel and Timothy F. Geithner — it’s not clear this time around who might have the standing and the inclination to speak up when the president errs. Every second-term president needs that kind of help, even if he doesn’t relish it.

Wow. Is this really all the Washington Post headline writers have to back up their nasty little smear of a subhead? Obama’s frequently and openly stated hard-line policy on leaks? The fact that his second-term advisors might possibly not give good advice at some completely undetermined time in the future on some as yet completely undetermined issue? The absolutely damming fact that this week Obama “seemed at times arrogant and at others defensive and flat-footed?”
If the Washington Post’s headline writers think that these things are “misdeeds,” somebody better get these poor victims of a disastrously inadequate education a dictionary as quickly as possible; they clearly have absolutely no idea what the word “misdeeds” actually means and why it’s an extremely vicious, dishonest and explosive accusation to level at Obama in the current highly charged situation.
In fact, as an alternative, I’ll give you a real example of a damn “misdeed” – one that really “isn’t trivial.” It’s when the headline writers at one of the most influential newspapers in the country are so appallingly and pathetically timid and unwilling to take a completely uncompromised position that they deliberately undermine the thrust of an major editorial because they are absolutely terrified of being accused of being insufficiently “evenhanded” and not automatically blaming Democrats or Obama equally with the GOP regardless of the actual facts.
Now that’s a really serious “misdeed.” One that really “isn’t trivial.” Maybe the Washington Post should start following Obama’s example of how to deal with a scandal and start firing some people itself.

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