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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Obama’s critics are having a really hard time finding the way to clearly and decisively criticize whatever he does. Here’s a helpful suggestion:

Greg Sargent raises an important question today about the GOP and mainstream commentator criticism of Obama on Syria:

I continue to be puzzled by an enormous imbalance we’ve seen in much of the commentary — from neutral analysts and Republican lawmakers alike — about Obama’s handling of Syria. On the one hand, the basic take has been that Obama’s handling of the process has shown him to be weak and inconsistent. He changed his mind on whether to go to Congress….He changed his mind again on using military force, instead opting to pursue a diplomatic solution when the possibility presented itself…
[But] Regardless of motive, wasn’t going to Congress the right thing to do, and wasn’t that preferable to him bombing without Congress?…Many of these critics won’t say whether they think exploring the possibility of a diplomatic solution was the right thing to do given that this possibility arose. This is particularly jarring when it comes from those who also say they can’t support war.
…Ultimately what this whole dodge comes down to is that one can’t admit to thinking that going to Congress and pursuing a diplomatic solution are the right goals for Obama to pursue, without undermining one’s ability to criticize Obama for betraying abstract qualities like firmness and consistency we all know a president is “supposed” to possess…. After all, if Obama’s changes of mind have now pointed him towards goals you agree with, how was changing course a bad thing?

In order to clarify their position, it has now clearly become vital that Obama’s critics unite behind a clear joint statement of their perspective. As an attempt to assist them in this effort, I am happy to propose the following public statement for their consideration:

As Republican and mainstream media critics of the president’s actions in the current crisis with Syria, we believe that there are only two acceptable paths that Obama might properly have followed. On the one hand, he could have pushed ahead against both military-diplomatic advice and public opinion to launch a military strike of sufficient size and lethality to antagonize world opinion without achieving a clear and unambiguous military objective. On the other hand, he could have timidly and humiliatingly backed down from his insistence that the use of chemical weapons was unacceptable and meekly renounced any possible military response.
In either of these cases he would have provided Congress and the American people with the clear and unequivocal approach that they so profoundly deserved – approaches that would have demonstrated that he was either (a) a bumbling military-strategic amateur patently unsuited to the role of commander-in-chief or (b) a weak-kneed crypto-pacifist clearly unable to inspire respect from the international community.
As concerned Republicans and mainstream political analysts, we are outraged that Obama has refused to embrace either one of these two clear and straightforward approaches and has chosen instead to dramatically revise his strategy and approach on a nearly day-to-day basis as events have unfolded. We are particularly outraged that he is attempting by this subterfuge to achieve limited but useful diplomatic goals without either clearly foreswearing any future military action or rejecting any and all possible willingness to negotiate. This not only obscures the fundamental issues at stake but denies those Americans who disagree with him a clear basis on which to emphatically condemn his actions —regardless of what those actions might be.
We therefore call upon president Obama to decisively and unambiguously embrace one of the two options we have presented as the only proper and responsible way to provide the American people with a firm basis on which to bitterly criticize whatever approach he selects. We categorically reject the view that pragmatism and flexibility are characteristics the American people should be forced to tolerate in a Democratic president in a time of grave international crisis.

This has got to be the wildly biased – and flat-out over-the-top silliest – opinion poll ever conducted. It belongs in every textbook as a classic example of question rigging.

I’ve not generally been a big fan of Jennifer Rubin, to put it mildly, but as the GOP crazy train has lunged further and further off the tracks her columns have started to criticize some of the most egregious aspects of Republican extremism.
Case in point: this poll from the Heritage Foundation on Obamacare that she flatly labels “junk”. I mean, wow, just get a load of these “thumb on the scales” questions:
67.8 YES
25.3 NO
28.3 Strongly Approve
31.5 Somewhat Approve
10.3 Somewhat Disapprove
18.3 Strongly Disapprove
OK, now with these unbelievably loaded questions, you would think the deck was sufficiently stacked. But nope. As Rubin notes:

The poll asserts that it measures “swing districts [but] Charley Cook ranks congressional districts with its Partisan Voting Index (PVI), the higher the number the greater the lean toward that party. A perfectly balanced district would be at zero.
Every single one of the districts [in the Heritage poll] with a GOP congressman has a GOP PVI of at least +6. The average PVI of these districts is over +10 Republican. The districts currently with a Democratic representative are even more right-leaning, with PVI ratings between +9 and +16 GOP (an average of + 12.75 GOP). Overall, President Obama lost these seats by an average of 18 points.

The only real question here is why the Heritage Foundation bothered to actually conduct a poll rather than just making up the numbers as well as the questions. It certainly would not have made the results any less meaningful.

Jim Messina, Who Just Took a Job Advising Britain’s Conservative Party, Should Immediately Resign as Head of OFA – Or Be Unceremoniously Fired. Here’s Why:

Harold Meyerson in The Washington Post:

Messina isn’t just a consultant; he is also the chairman of Organizing for Action, which describes itself on its Web site as an “organization established to support President Obama in achieving enactment of the national agenda Americans voted for on Election Day 2012.” The site touts the necessity of investing public dollars in infrastructure and highlights the efforts of volunteers across the country to win passage of immigration reform. If Organizing for Action’s members had any say in the matter, they almost surely wouldn’t approve of the group’s chairman going to work for Britain’s anti-immigrant, anti-public investment prime minister. Indeed, if they had any say in the matter, they might ask Messina to choose between Obama’s agenda and Cameron’s. If he opted to keep working for Cameron, they might just opt for a less-conflicted leader.

Mike Tomasky in the Daily Beast:

How could you flip from Barack Obama to David Cameron?
On immigration, domestic spending cuts, and Big Tobacco, Messina is signing on to and in the first two cases will be defending positions that are perfectly in line with America’s Republican Party. What’s he doing?
Political consulting isn’t a profession known for its demanding ethical standards. But no matter how flexible your relationship to the truth or how sleazy your ads, there is one line you aren’t supposed to cross–going to work for the other side. The Tories aren’t the Texas Republican Party. But they are the other side.

Andrew Sabl in The Reality Based Community:

It’s fine, in fact laudable, for a policy expert in government to be nonpartisan–meaning not free of ideology, which nobody is, but determined to work for the public interest rather than the narrow interest of one party vis-à-vis another. It’s fine, though rarer and not mandatory, for a policy expert outside of government to be the same way. It’s thirdly fine for a political commentator or blogger who never claimed to be easily classified in Left-Right terms– Andrew Sullivan, for example –to support Obama in the U.S. but Cameron in Britain…
…But someone who purports to be the leader of a party’s grassroots had better understand, and be prepared to practice, the thing that Max Weber said the leaders and followers of mass political parties “always and necessarily” must do: fight. And the mass membership of a modern party will never fight for the sake of a specified level of public debt, but only for the less compromising reasons–loyalty to a side, and/or devotion to a larger and longer cause–whose importance Messina demonstrably does not begin to grasp.
Messina can, barely, remain a political consultant to both our Democrats and Britain’s Conservatives. But grassroots Democrats will not, and should not, follow a supporter of the Tories into political battle. If Messina thinks we should, that’s all the more evidence that he’s unfit for his current job.
To campaign is to choose. Having taken the Tories’ shilling, Messina should resign from OFA. He will not lack for other work.

It’s so sad it’s almost funny: Jennifer Rubin inadvertently provides the clearest possible illustration of the fact that the difference between GOP “Moderates” and “Conservatives” on basic electoral strategy is still 90 percent cynical PR.

More masochistic progressive readers of the Washington Post will have noticed that Jennifer Rubin has become a little less predictable lately. Her columns, instead of sounding like verbatim transcripts of press releases from the RNC, have more recently taken the side of the “moderates” in the GOP on issues like immigration and have presented various polemics against the self-destructive nature of the “extremist” current within the Republican world.
Ironically, however, Rubin’s attacks on GOP extremism actually provide a uniquely dramatic illustration of the fact that – in regard to basic electoral strategy — the difference between the moderates and conservatives in the GOP remains 90 percent cynical PR.
Back last December Ed Kilgore, J.P. Green and I wrote a TDS Strategy Memo where we emphatically argued the following:

The current split within the GOP isn’t between Tea Party extremists and “Establishment” moderates. It’s between one group of GOP extremists that wants to restore the Bush strategy of running parallel covert and overt agendas versus another group of GOP extremists that wants to openly assert a radical right-wing agenda.

Here’s what we said:

In the period leading up to and including the administration of George W. Bush, sophisticated conservative strategists (preeminently Karl Rove) perfected a “dual track” strategy of running two parallel political agendas. One track was an overt, “moderate” agenda designed for the press and general electorate It included slogans like “compassionate conservatism” aimed at softening media and public perceptions of “movement conservatism…
…At the same time, however, there was also a parallel covert agenda aimed at the religious and social conservatives who comprised a large section of the Republican base. This second agenda was executed by providing special high-level access for conservative base leaders, “below the radar” administrative and executive actions supporting conservative issues and policies and continual “dog whistles”–the use of coded words and phrases to assure the conservative base that deep down Bush and other Republican leaders were really “one of us.”
This strategy was successfully deployed first in 2000, when Bush managed to secure the universal support of the conservative movement during the presidential primaries, yet still competed aggressively with Al Gore for swing voters during the general election, without changing his policy positions at all.

Now here’s Jennifer Rubin in today’s Post criticizing Ted Cruz’s proud and defiant brand of extremism and explaining the alternative “moderate” approach.

In numerous Senate races over the last two cycles, conservatives like Cruz have backed the most extreme conservatives in primaries, only to see them crash and burn and/or exhibit views entirely out of step with their voters. Unfortunately, being forthright about extreme views is not a path to victory in most states.
In fact the Republicans who win are those who take the edge off the GOP stereotype, showing themselves to be reasonable, congenial and concerned about average Americans. They talk about conservative ideas but don’t necessarily label them conservative. They are forward-looking and optimistic, engendering support from young people. And they appeal to non-ideological voters who turn out only in presidential elections. And yes, they exude concern and camaraderie with non-rich voters by connecting their biography in some way with voters (e.g. a broken home, a self-made man, a personal struggle).
Those are the sorts of Republicans who win presidential races – in other words, pols unlike Ted Cruz.

Now Rubin’s great value as a conservative columnist is that, because of her uniquely superficial and self-absorbed perspective, she frequently offers an extraordinarily clear and direct view of the darker recesses of the conservative id.
The quote above is a perfect example. It offers such a proud and unapologetically manipulative strategy for essentially “conning” voters into voting Republican – a strategy completely untainted by any concern about actually adjusting conservative policies to help the young, the non-ideological and non-affluent with their real-world problems — that it cannot properly even be called cynical. It essentially asserts “Well of course winning elections is all about hiding “extreme” views, “taking the edge off” them, being “congenial”, “exuding concern and camaraderie”, with seeking sympathy with a hard-luck story or two. My goodness, what else could winning elections possibly be about?”
In a certain perverse way it is almost refreshing to see the “moderate” Republican strategy for winning elections expressed so clearly. Usually one has to hide a videocamera in a coatroom or wait for a confidential memo to be accidently made public to observe this kind of naked honesty.
But, while one can appreciate Rubin’s utter lack of discretion or guile, as we said in our December strategy memo, “It is simply a perversion of the English language to describe this strategy as “moderate” in any meaningful sense of the word.”

The Third Way approach to debating the deficit: A guide for the perplexed

The principals of Third Way had an op-ed in the Washington post last week that characteristically began by slamming what they called “the left.” Now Third Way has a very unique approach to debating those it disagrees with – an approach that may be confusing for those new to it. To assist the neophyte, here’s a handy guide.
The Third Way op-ed says:

The left needs to get real on Medicare, Social Security and the deficit……These voices [i.e. the left] argue that we can have substantial new spending on public investments, a secure safety net, no middle-class tax increase — all without addressing entitlement spending.

Now a normal reader has to wonder, exactly who is this “left” that believes and advocates this view? After all, even the most prominent opponents of deficit-hysteria like Paul Krugman, Bob Reich and Bob Kuttner don’t seriously embrace the simplistic view above. So who is it? The people who write comments at Firedoglake? The guys and gals who wear the Guy Fawkes masks during Occupy protests?
Nope. It turns out that “the left” that Third Way is criticizing in their Op-Ed is essentially the entire – and I mean entire — liberal-progressive coalition. Their expansive definition of the “left” includes even those groups that are the closest to Obama himself.
Here’s Third Way:

There is a rising chorus on the left, most recently articulated in an op-ed Monday by Neera Tanden and Michael Linden [“Deficits are not destiny”] of the Center for American Progress, that our fiscal conversation should be declared over and plans for meaningful entitlement reforms mothballed.

Now, frankly, if Third Way seriously defines the Center for American Progress as representing “the left” in American politics then they must also define the Brookings Institution and the Hoover Institution as the official think tanks of the Mississippi Tea Party and the Arizona minutemen. There is simply no other way to compress the American political spectrum from left to right radically enough to fit Third Way’s categorization scheme. CAP is, of all the Beltway think tanks, the one closest to the Obama administration. Moreover, until several weeks ago it was counted among the “good guys” by many deficit-hawks because it supported a “grand bargain.” On occasion it may be described by journalists as “center-left” rather than as “liberal” or “progressive,” but, aside from Third Way, never as simply “the left”
And the actual policies proposed by the Center for American Progress do not even remotely fit the caricature Third Way offers in the initial quote above,
Here’s Third Way:

But the left’s reasoning is predicated on four fiscal fantasies….Fantasy No. 1 is that taxing the rich solves our problems. Fantasy No. 2 is that “we can have it all” “substantial new spending on public investments, a secure safety net, no middle-class tax increase — all without addressing entitlement spending.”

Now here is what the Center for American Progress’s Op-Ed – the Op-Ed specifically cited by Third Way as its key example of what “the left” thinks — actually says:

Indeed, liberals have been leading on entitlement reform as part of a balanced approach to deficit reduction for the past four years. The Center for American Progress offered a detailed plan to reform Social Security that would achieve 75-year solvency while making the system more progressive, stable and eliminating its gender inequity. We also offered a Medicare plan that would continue to reduce costs for the federal government, saving $385 billion over 10 years, without shifting those costs onto middle- and low-income beneficiaries, businesses or states. These are good ideas, and Congress should pursue them.
Yes, the nation still has a long-term deficit challenge. And yes, entitlement reform will have to be part of the solution.

In short, not only is the Center for American Progress not accurately described as representing “the left” in American politics but Third Way attributes to CAP views that every serious person in Washington knows perfectly well they do not actually hold.
Now really, just what the heck is going on here? Why even bother to present such an obviously flawed and easily refuted political typology?
The answer is that Third Way wants three deeply contradictory things (1) to be viewed as a major and legitimate part of the democratic coalition (2) to be able to nonetheless criticize Obama from the right, using a form of argument largely identical to those of Pete Peterson’s “Fix the Debt” and other similar, overwhelmingly Republican or supposedly “nonpartisan” groups that reject Obama’s more balanced approach and (3) to claim for themselves the mantle of “centrism” from the Clinton Administration figures of the 1990’s.
The problem, of course, is that in the real political world of America today none of these desires are remotely realistic. Obama is presenting a deficit reduction strategy that is, by any rational definition, “centrist,” the leading “centrist” politicians of the 1990’s, including Bill and Hillary Clinton themselves, support Obama’s general approach rather than that of “Fix the Debt” and most active, committed Democrats today consider themselves “liberals” or “progressives” rather than “centrists”
So on the large set of issues related to the deficit, Third Way finds itself:

1. Disagreeing with President Obama’s centrist approach.
2. Presenting a line of argument largely championed by Republicans or other non-Democrats and
3. Upholding a perspective which is a distinctly minority view within the modern Democratic coalition.

Now there is a perfectly honest way that Third Way could champion this perspective, It is to adopt the stance of the “lonely and heroic voice of reason,” the brave contrarians who stand fearlessly against the tide, assert that they alone are right and predict that the Democratic Party will one day recognize its errors and come around to their view.
In the memo on which the Washington Post op-ed was based, Third Way did not create a straw man called “the left” but more accurately defined their debate as with liberal Democrats. They also presented their position in a more textured way. But in the Washington Post Op-Ed, Third Way decided to use a different approach — to create a false dichotomy between themselves on the one hand and an imaginary opponent one might call “the economically illiterate, proudly fact-denying left” on the other and to fight this straw man rather than admit that they were actually disagreeing not only with most liberals and progressives but with most active Democrats and Obama himself.

The NYT’s Timothy Egan argues that everything is Obama’s fault – and in the process achieves Guinness Book of World Records levels for the use of utterly vacuous clichés.

For a long time now progressives have been pointing out that many mainstream commentators use a particularly vacuous and indeed dishonest kind of argument when they decide to criticize Obama. Rather than criticize Obama for failing to employ some specific alternative strategy to overcome GOP sabotage, they simply toss out metaphors and clichés about “strength” and “Weakness”, “arm-twisting” and “muscle” as if macho posturing by itself were a coherent political strategy.
Progressives call this the “Green Lantern” view of the presidency, the idea that presidents have essentially limitless power if they simply choose to wield it. It’s an essentially dishonest form of criticism because it allows a columnist to write an entire column blaming Obama for failing to overcome GOP resistance without once noting the unprecedented GOP resistance itself or proposing how it could actually be overcome.
Today’s Times has a particularly egregious example: in a single, short column Timothy Egan tosses out no less than 10 vacuous, clichéd criticisms.
Gaze in awe:

…too often, Obama (1) phones it in from 35,000 feet, far from the (2) sweat, grime and blood of the battlefield of politics.
[He] continues to (3) give limp speeches and moan about how he can’t get anything done with a Congress of Neanderthals and talk-radio spawn.
[He] did not (4) have enough muscle to (5) marshal through something favored by 90 percent of the American people — background checks to keep criminals and crazy people from getting guns.
He’s allowed himself (6) to get boxed in…
[His] policies — on immigration, marriage equality, tax fairness, guns — are sound and have majority support…It’s the way he runs the executive branch, (7) his fear of taking the fight to Republicans, that is so maddening.
(8) He’s defensive, forced to defend his presidency as still being alive and well. Obama doesn’t have to be Lyndon B. Johnson, (9) twisting elbows to shape history. But maybe he can hire an L.B.J.
(10) Leaders find a way.

My god, just look at this forest of clichés. You can criticize Obama all you want but let’s face it, this drivel reads like something that was written by a computer program that randomly accessed a database of clichés and spit them out in any arbitrary order.
And here’s an interesting contrast to consider: study the editorial pages of New York Times and the Washington Post and count how many commentaries you can find that criticize a major Republican Party figure with a similar blizzard of 10 equally vacuous clichés.
The fact is that you can count such commentaries on the fingers of one thumb. The Times and Post simply will not run commentaries of that kind because they would appear too blatantly “partisan,” “extreme” and “polemical.” It’s only with the president that they feel free to run relentlessly negative commentaries and pretend that they are dispassionate analysis.
America’s problem is not just that we have a political party that has descended into a profoundly dangerous extremism. It’s that we also have a mainstream media that is in a clinical state of denial about that basic reality.

And so we wave good bye to the IRS scandal as it trudges off into the sunset toward the retirement home for worn-out scandals, following the dwindling Benghazi scandal, poor, shrunken, Solindra, and ACORN now napping quietly in the Arizona sun.

Greg Sargent tells the tale:

As Jonathan Chait notes, [Mitch McConnell’s speech to the American Enterprise Institute] is effectively an acknowledgment by McConnell that the IRS scandal has officially moved into its “post fact” phase:
McConnell actually makes this explicit, openly admitting that this scandal, at least as it reflects on Obama, is no longer about the specific behavior — scandalous or not — of living, breathing human beings, and more about something that’s been vaguely institutionalized throughout the administration

“I don’t believe that the president ever actually picked up a phone and told someone over at the IRS to slow-walk those applications or audit anybody. But the truth is, he didn’t have to. The message was clear enough.”

Darrell Issa’s selective release of transcripts, followed by the release by Dems on Issa’s Oversight Committee of full witness testimony that undercut Issa’s claims, seems to have further soured the media on GOP narratives hyping Nixonian presidential wrongdoing. Partly because of Issa’s game-playing — and partly because the very serious concerns raised by the NSA revelations intervened — the political press corps really does seem to have decided that Republican investigators have come up with nothing to tie the IRS targeting to the White House and that those initial leaks were little more than an effort to play them.
For now, at least, the media seems to have moved on. And so Mitch McConnell can now drop all pretenses and speak directly to the base in language only they can understand.

The interesting thing to note about this transition, however, is that in the modern Fox News world, fabricated scandals never actually die. Instead they mutate into quasi-theological “truths” that are shared, savored, recited and recycled in speeches and conversations among the faithful.
In this process their essential character changes. In the initial active phase of a “pseudo-scandal” the particular accusations involved are offered as the “evidence” that proves some proposition about Obama’s character and actions. In the second phase, on the other hand, the now completely accepted conclusions about Obama morph into the “proof” of the initial accusations themselves.
For example, in 2009, the lurid accusations that busloads of minorities had been bused from precinct to precinct to vote again and again for Obama was used as the “proof” that Obama had stolen the 2008 election. By 2012, the “well-known” fact that the Obama forces stole elections made it unnecessary to produce any specific proof that busloads of minorities actually had been herded from precinct to precinct. By 2012 anyone who expressed doubts about the accuracy of this accusation was told “Oh my God, don’t you watch Fox News? They’ve run hundreds of stories on this. And anyway, of course that’s what a socialist like Obama would do. He and his gang don’t believe in democracy.”
As a result, the “well-known” facts that Obama unleashed the IRS on his enemies and cringed and cowered under his bed as the Benghazi attacks unfolded and then tried to cover up his cowardice will now take their place alongside the equally well-known facts about the epic corruption around Solindra and blatant electoral theft of the 2008 election. In 2014 and 2016 they will become a kind of political litany, recited like incantations in every speech and debate. They will no longer be presented as specific facts supported by evidence but as a kind of shared moral vision and perspective. The initiates in this political sub-culture will simply “know” that Obama did these terrible things because they “know” that he is essentially evil and they will simply “know” that he is essentially evil because they “know” he does terrible things like these.

This is kinda weird: a serious and informed discussion and debate about “conservative reform” that doesn’t include any major conservatives.

Is it just me or does this seem a bit odd. Leading, serious progressive commentators – Greg Sargent, Mike Tomasky, Jon Chait, Ed Kilgore, Paul Krugman and others are all seriously debating the arguments put forth by “Conservative Reformers” – guys like Ross Douthat , Reihan Salam, David Frum and Josh Barro while at the same time Charles Krauthhammer, George Will, Jennifer Rubin and other leading conservative columnists are completely ignoring the topic.
And what about the conservative political and mass media leadership? You know, Mitch McConnell? John Boehner? Bill ‘Reilly? The Rushbo? What’s their response to these thoughtful critiques?
Nada. Omerta. No comment. Mums da Woid.
The whole thing is sorta like watching a spirited debate over the burgers at McDonald’s versus Wendy’s conducted entirely among vegetarians or regarding the latest New York fashion trends conducted entirely among nudists. It may be interesting to observe (especially the latter, if it’s on U-tube) but it’s hard to see what possible difference it can make as long as all of the real players in the GOP simply refuse to join in.

“Smoking Gun” or Exploding Cigar? Daily Caller Uses Giant Sized Type, O’Reilly Hyperventilates like Breaching Humpback Whale about “Bombshell Discovery” – that the IRS Chief “made 157 visits to White House.”

Unless you are a glutton for punishment, you may not have heard the latest buzz in the conservative media – that IRS head Douglas Shulman visited the White House 157 times. “Bombshell Discovery” and “Smoking Gun” were among the thoughtful cautious and judicious phrases chosen to describe this fact since the only possible interpretation was that Shulman was getting near-daily marching orders directly from Obama on how to most savagely persecute the Tea Party.
But then that big spoilsport Josh Marshall has to come along and ruin the fun. As he says:

In a few words, most of the right-wing press is just astonishingly bad.
Here’s today’s example. Yesterday I heard word on Twitter that ex-IRS Chief Douglas Shulman had visited the White House a whopping 157 times. The story started at The Daily Caller. It’s not totally clear whether that was whopping or sub-whopping. But whatever.

He then lets Garance Franke-Ruta present the facts:

The public meeting schedules available for review to any media outlet show that very thing: Shulman was cleared primarily to meet with administration staffers involved in implementation of the health-care reform bill. He was cleared 40 times to meet with Obama’s director of the Office of Health Reform, and a further 80 times for the biweekly health reform deputies meetings and others set up by aides involved with the health-care law implementation efforts. That’s 76 percent of his planned White House visits just there, before you even add in all the meetings with Office of Management and Budget personnel also involved in health reform.

Marshall continues:

But it gets better. Those 157 visits? Those are times he was ‘cleared’ to visit the White House. The logs only show he actually showed up 11 times. It’s quite possible that the records missed a couple visits. But it seems likely that the story – which originated at The Daily Caller – was off by about ten fold.

He then concludes:

Now, this isn’t an indictment of [all] conservative journalists… But as a group, the standards of most institutional right wing journalism are just so appallingly bad that their stories simply aren’t credible.

But, hey, wait just a darn minute. If — as the Daily Caller also reported — Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was giving money to “Friends of Hamas” at the same time that the IRS was involved in tax discussions about setting up Death Panels under Obamacare, then maybe it was actually Hagel who was passing information on how to persecute the Tea Party groups from Obama over to Shulman using his contacts in the “Friends of Hamas” as intermediaries.

Boy I’m glad Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan weren’t writing in the early 60’s. I tremble to think how they would have covered Martin Luther King.

In a new piece titled provocatively titled, “Obama the Uniter? Not Really”, the Washington Post’s resident dispensers of inside the beltway common wisdom have once again managed to concede the reality of Republican extremism as the source of political polarization in one sentence and then turn around and lay the responsibility for it on Obama in another.
Just watch how this world Olympic-class “it’s not really his fault except it really is” gymnastic logical summersault is performed:

“Obama the Uniter? Not Really”,
…there’s little question that Republicans in Congress have been driven to the ideological right over the past few years due in large part to a series of primary victories by conservative insurgents over incumbents viewed as insufficiently loyal to party principles.
But, Obama is still the president who pledged — loudly and repeatedly — to change how Washington works. That has not happened. The economic stimulus bill and the healthcare law passed on party line votes in his first term. The gun bill failed on party lines in his second term. And, with a series of scandals and investigations now mounting, it seems more likely that partisanship will grow rather than shrink in the coming months…
None of that is Obama’s fault and there is nothing — or virtually nothing — he can do to change it. But, add it all up and you are left with one inescapable conclusion: The president who pledged to change Washington is almost certain to come up short on that promise.

Wow. I sure am glad Cillizza and Sullivan weren’t writing in the early 60’s. They probably would have evaluated Martin Luther King something like this:

Martin Luther King, Man of Peace? Not Really
…there’s little question that segregationists have been driven even further to the ideological right over the past few years due in large part to the growing demands for equality …But Martin Luther King is still the leader who pledged — loudly and repeatedly — to seek civil rights without violence.
That has not happened….A church in Birmingham has been bombed, civil rights workers have been murdered and John Kennedy has been assassinated.
None of that is King’s fault and there is nothing — or virtually nothing — he can do to change it. But, add it all up and you are left with one inescapable conclusion: The leader who pledged to seek civil rights without violence is almost certain to come up short on that promise.

Does anybody except me think that this is just world class crazy? I sure do hope so.