Friday, August 31, 2012


Lefty Journalism And the Failed Denial

The great James Taranto led me to discover a piece by former NYT editor and now merely an Op-Ed columnist there Bill Keller (he's still riding that burning plane all the way down to the deck, but at least he's no longer in a pilot's chair). I had back in July posted about how stupid it is to deny that President Obama said "You didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen" and then quote him in a slightly longer version in which he says precisely that. To deny the President said exactly what he said in the quote they provide makes the deniers just look stupid. I had though the Democrats had wised up and had moved on to calling falsely other accurate quotes and paraphrases (by Republicans) lies. How wrong was I.

Keller starts with a headline twisting a famous quip attributed to Mark Twain: Lies, Damned Lies and G.O.P. Video. Oh, I get it, the GOP video is worse than a damned lie. Gotcha.

He appears to be in take-no-prisoners mode:

“We did build that,” has already been established as one of the more dishonest political memes in a campaign season undisturbed by shame. [...] The fact that this slogan has been thoroughly debunked has not kept it from being the defining theme in Tampa.

Wow. I couldn't wait to hear how it's been so thoroughly debunked and why it's so shockingly dishonest. Unfortunately, Mr. Keller does not provide any debunking and only the most meager of explanations for why it is shocking to quote the President accurately and not accept his message as Truth and Wisdom. Keller says, in explanation, that "the president pointed out that most American business successes have been assisted by infrastructure, education or incentives underwritten by the government." Except the President didn't say that; he said this:
Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. (Emphasis added.)
Mr Keller complains that the full quote above, which appears in his opinion piece, is completely different from the "doctored" version shown in Republican ads riffing on the President's diminishing the individual effort and success of others. Here is the version Keller finds so completely dishonest:

If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You, you didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think: ‘Wow, it must be because I was just so smart.’ There are a lot of smart people out there. ‘It must be because I worked harder than everyone else. ‘Let me tell you something, if you’ve got a business, that … you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

Well, it is shorter and that's because it's missing the stuff about a lot of people are hardworking (so you're not so special if you succeed), and about your success depended on Government help along the way (in, for examples, a helpful teacher or American infrastructure that "allowed" you to thrive)--so much for individual effort--it's government spending of what the taxpayers earned that "allows" some people to be successful--who knew? Oh, and it also leaves out the half-truth that the internet was created by the government and not by thousands of entrepreneurs who have made it the huge success and important part of our lives it is today.

But is the short version a distortion of what the President said?

I say no. It's precisely what the President said, and the longer quote just makes his warped view of capitalism and the American ideal of rugged individualism all the clearer. The context actually makes the shorter quote worse.

Here's Keller's big finish:

In another campaign season, the fact that the opposition edited the president’s voice to say something he didn’t say would be regarded as audacious. This year it’s almost unremarkable.
Each of the videos, by the way, continues with the lament of a hard-working businessman – a Colorado farmer, the owner of a Nevada candy company, and the president of an Ohio electric company – each profoundly insulted by what Obama … um, never actually said.

Sorry, Mr. Keller, he did say that, just what the ad quoted, and the proof is in the very words of the President and the quote you thoughtfully provided in order to prove he didn't say what the Republicans claim he said when, er, actually you prove just the opposite. And you look dumb doing it, like you suffer from a hyperactive form of denial.

I have little to add to this from Taranto:

Obama's journalistic supporters live in a bizarre alternate reality in which a politician's actual words mean nothing. When the president says something foolish and offensive, he didn't say that. Meanwhile every comment from a Republican can be translated, through a process of free association, to: "We don't like black people."
So true. And so sad. The whole of the left wing dominated media (I know, wordy) is on fire and losing altitude and the journalists seem hell bent to put it in a powerdive.


1) Taranto is a daily read for me. I learn a lot from him. He had a BOTWT the other day in which he nicely differentiated between "deficit hawk" and "small government conservative.' 'Twas well done.
2) I really do wonder if we will ever learn what grades Obama obtained in his Harvard Law classes. The confusion of his thoughts and his messed up speaking lead me to question what he learned there. I have never met a lawyer (and I've worked for, with, and around any number of lawyers) who failed to think an issue through before he spoke, and who was not extraordinarily careful in his words. Only Obama himself is to blame for any erroneous inferences taken from his words. (And I don't believe they're in error: I believe that it's in Obama's extemporaneous speaking that we see him truly.)
3) Book recommendation: I just pulled my copy of "Touching History" off the shelf to re-read, and find it even more enthralling than the first time through. It's a chronological narrative of everything that happened in the skies on 9/11. The FAA, Defense, ATC, NORAD, airline dispatchers, airline pilots, everyone. Clearly and cleanly written. Author is Lynn Spencer. Five stars.
Thanks for the comment and recommendation. Taranto is a daily (week-daily) read for me as well. I have to disagree about lawyers always thinking things through. We say stupid stuff all the time. Witness this blog.
Your self-deprecation, while admirable in its modesty, is undeserved. I have yet to read a poor post here. Although I must confess that I generally skip the climate posts -- I have worn out my patience with the we-caused-it-we-can-cure-it-global-climate-change bunch whose claims are primarily founded on computer models, the accuracy of whose data points is doubtful at best, and deliberately fudged, at worst.
OTOH, where do you find all the WWII photos? Those, I find fascinating; esp. that you can identify equipment and weapons.
I see some on Good Sh*t, some on the German Army's history website and some I just Google. Thanks for the compliment. I am an avid fan of the history of military equipment. Soldiers are pretty much the same throughout history, the real change is what they carry and what carries them.
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