Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Rookie mistakes plague The Politico

UPDATED: Rookie mistakes plague The Politico

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald expands on the Politico-Drudge connection.
OK, actually the headline of the piece that I'm writing about here is "Rookie Mistakes Plague Obama," and it's the latest effort from the new, right-wing narrative-boosting tag team of The Politico web site and Matt Drudge.
The thing is, I could write a story headlined "Rookie Mistakes Plague The Politico," and I would have a dynamite anecdote to back it up. It would be the story of how, with the whole world watching, The Politico, in existence for less than three months, botched the Elizabeth Edwards cancer story and falsely reported -- based on just one anonymous source -- that her husband would be dropping out of the presidential race.
Yep, that would be a doozy, and you could follow it up with the story -- as so well related by Glenn Greenwald last week -- of how the new Internet site wrongly reported that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would soon resign, or how The Politico also apologized for creating a right-wing talking point with the phrase "slow bleed" to describe the Democrats' Iraq strategy.
Unfortunately, Mike Allen of The Politico's new attack story on Sen. Barack Obama -- highlighted on the Drudge Report no later than 18 minutes after it was filed by Allen (how does he do it!) -- has no such doozy.
In fact, as a longtime journalist, I can assure you that writers save the best for first, and so here is Allen's lead-in:
Speaking early this month at a church in Selma, Ala., Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said: "I'm in Washington. I see what's going on. I see those powers and principalities have snuck back in there, that they're writing the energy bills and the drug laws."
It was a fine populist riff calculated to appeal to Democratic audiences as Obama seeks his party's presidential nomination. But not only did Obama vote for the Senate's big energy bill in 2005, he also put out a press release bragging about its provisions, and his Senate Web site carries a news article about the vote headlined, "Senate energy bill contains goodies for Illinois."
The press release said he voted for the bill "reluctantly" because he wanted something "bolder," and his staff says there was nothing inconsistent about the comment in Selma.
That's it? Here's how I understand this anecdote: Obama saw what was going on with the 2005 energy bill and didn't like what he saw, as he explained in Selma, but looked at the package as a whole and -- although "reluctant," as he acknowledged at the time -- cast a vote for it. Knowing all the facts, I'd assume that Obama wants to be president so he could help craft a "bolder" energy policy than the one he reluctantly voted for.
That's a rookie mistake? To me, the tale does illustrate why no sitting U.S. senator has been elected president since 1960 , because they're forced to explain their votes for or against murky compromise packages like this one.
When I read this, I figured there had to be a lot more mistakes coming to justify the heated headline (and Drudge treatment). But the mistake was mine. Instead, there's a lot of mushy, unsupported stuff like this:
Obama's gift with language -- his powerful speaking style and the graceful prose and compelling story of his best-selling memoir -- has been an engine of his dramatic, high-velocity rise in presidential politics. But he has also shown a tendency toward seemingly minor contradictions and rhetorical slips that serve as reminders that he is still a newcomer to national politics.
Huh? Such as...?
I won't rehash the No. 2 anecdote, which is cribbed (with proper credit) from the Chicago Tribune, and basically says that no one has been able to find a magazine picture from the 1960s -- when he was elementary-school age -- that shaped his views on race. Obama recalled it was in Life and apparently it wasn't, so it may or may not have run somewhere else. As I recall myself, being roughly the same age as Obama, there were a lot of magazines laying around in the 1960s.
Well, this is a shame because I thought Obama could be a decent president before I learned that one childhood memory had played a trick on him.
Yes, that was sarcasm. Could it be the case here that certain elements inside the Beltway, having worked a little too hard on their narratives to tear down Hillary Clinton, are frantically creating a new one as Obama rises in the polls? Sure smells that way. With about 19 months until the 2008 general election, there's still plenty of time to launch and implant a narrative that Obama is a fabulist and a myth-maker.
Even when what lies beneath that narrative is a fable in and of itself.



"In my universe, your life in the present moment is better than the best moments
you have ever loved in your past, and your future is even better than all that."
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