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Monday, March 23, 2009

Things Not To Be Giddy About
Maimon Schwarzschild

This Politico post is getting a lot of links, with the implication that Sunday's NYTimes criticism of Obama is bad news for Obama.  What's the criticism?

“Some of what the public has heard from the Obama administration on issues like state secrets and detainees sounds a bit too close for comfort to the Bush team’s benighted ideas,” penned the Times editorialists, carping about Guantanamo specifically, detainee policy more broadly and Obama’s reluctance to investigate Bush-era actions on “terrorism, state secrets, wiretapping, detention and interrogation.”

In other words, how about war crimes trials for Bushitler.

And Frank Rich is indignant that Obama isn't even more demagogic about AIG, perhaps a la ACORN.

Tom Friedman, it's true, says one or two obvious but sensible things, as he does now and then - and my, how pleased with himself he always seems.  But otherwise it's the usual shrill, robotic leftism at the Times.  Obama needn't worry: and I strongly suspect he doesn't.  Obama's a moderate, you see.  Criticised from the left as well as the right.  Yadda.

(I'm not bothering to link to the NYTimes.  It's the usual.  Read it if you want to.  You don't need a link from me.)

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Maimon Schwarzschild


The substance of the criticism is of minor importance. What is significant is that the Times (and by extension, the rest of the mainstream media) is finally willing to criticize Obama.

For too long, the press has cultivated and sustained the Obama Mythology: smart as a whip, measured, moderate, thoughtful, brilliant speaker, perfect family, uncorruptable, outsider, athletic, etc. Obviously, not all of this is true, and never was. Until now, the Times has never been motivated to deflate the myth. It was never in the Times' interest, for example, to point out that Obama is at sea without a Teleprompter.

But now that the Times is disappointed in Obama for not being liberal enough, they're attacking him and puncturing the myths. I don't care why they're doing it; I'm just glad that we all can start to agree that Obama is a gaffe-prone stutterer without a teleprompter. That's not a sin, of course. It's just nice to see the Times no longer treating Obama like he's a cross between Lincoln, Bryant, and Cicero.

Posted by: AK | Mar 23, 2009 7:58:59 AM

AK - You say:
"It's just nice to see the Times no longer treating Obama like he's a cross between Lincoln, Bryant, and Cicero."

Don't you mean Bryan (as in William Jennings Bryan), not "Bryant"? Cheers.

Posted by: DJF | Mar 23, 2009 1:47:40 PM


Perhaps inadvertent, but Kobe in the middle of those other two obscurities actually works quite well to convey the point.

Posted by: Desiderius | Mar 23, 2009 6:37:07 PM

Maimon, I think you underestimate the strength of the current administration's parallels with the beginning of the Clinton administration. (For the parallels between Obama's campaign and Clinton's, see

It's easy to forget, but Clinton was pilloried as furiously from the left as from the right during his first half-term, before the Republican sweep of 1994. Jacob Weisberg wrote an article for the New Republic called "Clincest", which characterized Clinton as a consummate Washington establishment insider. Harper's portrayed him as a creature of the Tyson poultry empire and other big business interests. His betrayals on gays in the military and the Lani Guinier nomination were widely lambasted on the left as demonstrations of his squishy, unprincipled centrism.

His economic and health care plans certainly earned him a lot of hostility from the right, of course. But that hostility never waned, yet his popularity recovered substantially after 1994, as the left united behind him as their sole powerful standard-bearer in Washington. The crucial difference during the first two years of his administration was his equal lack of friends on both sides of the aisle.

Posted by: Dan Simon | Mar 23, 2009 10:05:32 PM

DJF & Desiderius:

Yes, I meant "Bryan," but considering that the media has been worshipful of Obama's basketball prowess, perhaps "Bryant" was correct!

Posted by: AK | Mar 24, 2009 6:20:19 AM