February 26, 2013

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Jonathan Tobin writes on the Bob Woodward column featured in Sunday’s Pickings

Something interesting happened this weekend in Washington. After weeks of the mainstream media acting as President Obama’s echo chamber when he blamed the impending sequester budget cuts as being solely the fault of the Republicans, an icon of the liberal press finally did what the rest of the capital’s journalists should have been doing all along. The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward has written an op-ed drawing on the research and reporting he compiled when writing his book The Price of Politics. He explains that not only was the sequester the brainchild of the White House and not the GOP, but that in asserting that any deal to avert the draconian cuts it will exact requires new tax increases, the president is making a new unreasonable demand that moves the goalposts of the negotiations. Doing that may be clever politics but it is, contrary to the rhetoric of the Democrats, anything but balanced.

Some in the media have treated the question of who deserves the blame for the sequester as irrelevant or, more to the point, a distraction from the president’s campaign that they support to pressure Republicans to fold and accept more tax increases. But, as Woodward (who supports the president’s liberal line about taxes) points out, determining the origin of the sequester is anything but trivial: …


Dittos says Peter Wehner.

I want to add to what Jonathan wrote about Bob Woodward calling out the White House for misrepresenting its role in sequestration and “moving the goalposts” in order to get its way.

Mr. Woodward is clearly sympathetic to President Obama’s approach; he’s said as much. (“Obama’s call for a balanced approach is reasonable,” Woodward writes, “and he makes a strong case that those in the top income brackets could and should pay more.”) But Woodward has enough integrity as a journalist not to allow a willful distortion to go unchecked and unchallenged.

Many in the elite media–NBC’s Chuck Todd prominently among them—have made a concerted effort to downplay the role of paternity when it comes to the sequestration idea. (Todd declared, “Of all the dumb things Washington does, this ‘who started it’ argument has proven to be one of the dumber ones, especially since we’re so close to the actual cuts going into place.”)

But this is a ludicrous position. Any journalist worth his salt must know that for a president to eviscerate a “brutal” idea that his own White House championed and that the president himself approved of is a big story. And you can be sure Chuck Todd would think so, and treat it as such, if the president was George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan instead of Barack Obama. 

In any event, we only know about the White House’s role because of Woodward’s book The Price of Politics. And now Woodward himself is holding the White House accountable for disfiguring the truth.

I don’t always agree with Mr. Woodward’s judgments, and I’ve expressed those differences publicly. I’m also aware of the fact that it’s fashionable among some, including some conservatives, to disparage Woodward. But the truth is that he’s a monumentally important figure in the history of journalism. His books have genuine historical value. He’s not afraid to take on either Republican or Democratic presidents. And whatever his own political views are, he is first and foremost a reporter, and an awfully good one. Which he’s showed once again, in this most recent dust-up with the White House.


Heather Mac Donald on poverty and guns in Chicago and New York.

President Barack Obama recently went to Chicago to promote his poverty and gun violence initiatives and actually spoke a good deal of truth. “There’s no more important ingredient for success, nothing that would be more important for us reducing violence than strong, stable families, which means we should do more to promote marriage and encourage fatherhood,” he said. Reiterating a line from his State of the Union speech, he observed: “What makes you a man is not the ability to make a child; it’s the courage to raise one.” And though he paid the obligatory tribute to single mothers, he added with remarkable candor: “I wish I had had a father who was around and involved.” 

What Obama didn’t say also came as a relief. In the worst of all possible worlds, he could have trotted out hackneyed poverty and racism themes from the academy—that biased law enforcement and an “epidemic” of incarceration, for example, are harming what would otherwise be law-abiding inner-city communities. Unfortunately, the president’s deputies are pursuing policies informed by such ideas behind the scenes, but at least Obama is not putting the power of the presidential bully pulpit behind them. 

Had Obama left it at that, he would have made an important contribution to public discourse. But though he rightly recognized the distinction between civil society and government (“When a child opens fire on another child, there is a hole in that child’s heart that government can’t fill”), he came to Chicago bristling with big government programs that threaten to cancel out his personal responsibility theme. The administration is promoting an initiative called “Promise Zones,” based on a concept that has been endlessly flogged by liberal foundations: that if we can just form “collaboratives” to coordinate the existing morass of taxpayer-funded social service agencies and programs, we will achieve a breakthrough in the self-defeating behaviors that cause poverty today. The Ford Foundation’s Grey Areas program in New Haven in the 1960s was a progenitor of this idea (and the seedbed for the War on Poverty); more recently the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s New Futures collaborative bombed spectacularly. 

Paradoxically, streamlining social service delivery requires adding yet more agencies to the existing mix: …


James Delingpole of the Telegraph, UK, reflects on the SOTU claims about global warming.

Earlier this week in his State of the Union address President Obama made some observations on climate change so brimming with falsehoods I’m surprised his nose didn’t fall off.

It really doesn’t matter where he himself was deliberately lying or whether he was merely lending the gravitas of his office to the deliberate lies of others. The point is that the President of the USA has access to any number of fact checkers and advisers and if he stands up and addresses the nation with a farrago of complete untruths then the buck stops with him. This dissembling and mendacity becomes all the more culpable when it forms the basis of major public policy decisions which will have a serious impact on people’s lives in the US and beyond.

So why this snake-oil salesman being allowed to get away with it? …


Also in Telegraph, UK, Peter Foster says the endless campaign is getting tiresome.

… It is not even a month since inauguration day, and the ‘don’t blame me’ strategy is already starting to look old. Mr Obama is supposed to be the executive arm of government, but on one level these events simply advertise his own impotence.

The narrative out there is that all this campaigning will lead to a Democrat blitz that re-takes the House in the 2014 mid-term elections, leaving Mr Obama to defy the usual trajectory of second term presidents and end his second term with a wave of legislative achievements.

But for all that fighting talk and 2014 strategy memos flying round the Democrat caucus, when you start doing the electoral math (they need 17 seats and only four lean Democrat) and this Democrat electoral fantasy looks a distant prospect, indeed.

Which leaves us with a blowhard president who doesn’t appear to have a plan, other than protect his own personal, lecture-circuit legacy as an honourable guy, who tried. …

0 comments to February 26, 2013

  1. John Couzens says:

    Bravo for Bob Woodward.

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