Friday, July 04, 2008

RubeWatch: Are the editors of the New York Times the rubes? 

When Barack Obama asks us to believe in one of his changes, it is never quite clear whether the rubes to be fooled are the Great Unwashed who agree with the Flop or the naifs who agreed with the Flip. The eternal question always is, "who are the rubes"?

Well, in what is obviously a gust-busting turn, the editors of the New York Times are beginning to worry that they are the rubes. In this morning's lead editorial ("New and Not Improved"), they detail and denounce many of Obama's post-Hillary pivots to the center. As their irritation builds, I'm thinking that there are only three positions that could explain this editorial. First, that the editors genuinely believe that Obama could win the general election with his primary season policy ideas. It is believable that they think this because they live inside a Manhattan cocoon, but silly. Second, that the editors would rather that Obama lose than compromise his principles. This seems unlikely in the cold light of a November morning, however satisfying it might feel to spew such romantic drivel on the Fourth of July. Or, third, the editors know that Obama's pivots will be much more believable to the swing voters if the Times denounces them. This theory holds that the editors are pretending to be outraged so as to further deceive the rubes who prefer the Flop to the Flip.

It is so hard to know which explanation to believe.

For bonus comedy gold, note well the gun-control lie embedded in the editorial (emphasis added):

Mr. Obama endorsed the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the District of Columbia’s gun-control law. We knew he ascribed to the anti-gun-control groups’ misreading of the Constitution as implying an individual right to bear arms.

Dudes. In the just-decided Heller case, all nine of the Justices of the Supreme Court found that the Second Amendment describes an individual right to bear arms. Are you lying to your own readers, or are you so wedded to your own reading of the Constitution -- the anti-freedom reading -- that you will not give it up even when Ruth Bader Ginsberg (for example) disagrees with you?

MORE: PowerLiner Paul Mirengoff proposes two more explanations for the editors' outrage at Obama. Both seem plausible as motives, even if they sound ridiculous to a normal person:
The first explanation seems like the most plausible of the three, but let's consider two more. Fourth, the New York Times is just posturing. It wants Obama to win at all costs and recognizes that (though he might well win running from the left), his chances are better if he moderates. However, the editors want to preserve their purity and can do so at no cost by expressing disappointment with Obama. Fifth, the Times is thinking ahead. It understands that Obama maximizes his chances of winning by tacking towards the center and isn't that bothered that he's doing so. But it has its eyes on the Obama presidency and wants to make it plain to the candidate that, as president, he'll need to return to his lefitst principles if he wants to stay on the Times' good side.

Paul may well be right -- both of these ring true, even if the idea that the New York Times has "purity" to preserve is hilarious to you and me, no doubt they think it does.


By Blogger Muggins, at Fri Jul 04, 08:07:00 AM:

Campaign statements are lies designed in committee. Anyone who believes a campaign statement is a rube.  

By Anonymous bgates, at Fri Jul 04, 08:59:00 AM:

Scrolling through the Republican platform from 2000, I see
"We will deploy defenses against ballistic missiles"
"We commit ourselves to aiding and encouraging the work of charitable and faith-based organizations,"
"Help families by doubling the child tax credit to $1,000, making it available to more families"
Anyone who believes all campaign statements are lies is a fool who mistakes unthinking cynicism for sophistication.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Jul 04, 09:03:00 AM:

I still think the targets of his flops are going to be the rubes.

They will have no excuse for buying in, unlike the netroots who had no reason to doubt him other than the fact that he is a politician (scumbag).  

By Blogger A Jacksonian, at Fri Jul 04, 09:06:00 AM:

The rubes are always the last to figure out they are rubes...  

By Blogger Michael, at Fri Jul 04, 09:35:00 AM:

One more possibility. They don't care especially much about these flops, but they're trying to discourage the "Moby Dick" of flops that they can spot on the horizon -- the one that will make a lie of five years of NYT stories, the one that buries the Vietnam syndrome as an article of faith, the one that will require them to flop in order to defend it.

I don't know if a flop on Iraq is in the cards. But maybe they don't know either.  

By Anonymous Bruce Rheinstein, at Fri Jul 04, 09:45:00 AM:

Anyone who believes a campaign statement is a rube.

Don't you just hate the Politics of Cynicism?®  

By Blogger section9, at Fri Jul 04, 10:10:00 AM:

The Times? That's dimestore compared to the rationalization that's going on over at Kos.

Fun to watch.  

By Anonymous Brian Macker, at Fri Jul 04, 10:18:00 AM:

"Don't you just hate the Politics of Cynicism?®"

No, I rather like it. There really is little reason to believe campaign statements, even when the person making the statements believes in them. More often than not they are broken for one reason or another.

I'm much more comfortable accepting campaign statements that start "I believe " than "I will", but then again what good is "I believe" when it can't be put into action.  

By Anonymous Rob, at Fri Jul 04, 10:25:00 AM:

Uh, bgates, the child tax credit IS now $1000. I give you the relevant IRS page:


Also, we have deployed some anti-ballistic missile defenses, even though Democrats have hotly protested the idea. The URL says it all:


Lastly, Bush has taken incredible heat for "faith-based initiatives" that aid and encourage the work of faith-based organizations. Again, the URL says it all:


Where have you been for the last eight years? Criticize all you want, but jeez, pick some better examples.  

By Anonymous SAM, at Fri Jul 04, 10:33:00 AM:

Obama knows he's going to have a dem majority in House and Senate and can therefore enact all the liberal policies he supported in the primary. He's pivoting to the center to get the independent vote and once elected will move back to his true beliefs, which are the same as the far left's.

I believe the NYT knows this and is acting shocked. It doens't matter anyway becuase come October, they'll be endorsing him and giving him a tongue bath.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Jul 04, 10:33:00 AM:

There's another reason. It could be the start of the ground swell to nominate Hillary.
Hussein was attractive as a devine concept. He was black, articulate and spoke of magical things. He appealed to the reverse racists on both coasts.
The NYT NOW knows that Hussein isn't devine; that he is just another Chicago alderman. The NYT may also be aware of problems to come.
Hillary has one good shot at this. She has to drop out 'til days (2 days?, 10 days?) before the convention. Then, time her attack to damage Hussein while at the same time, bringing pressure to bear on the super-delegates, or, just some of them.
Hussein really is flopping and will blunder again. But, imagine that Hillary has, during this lull, been collecting damaging stuff in Springfield and Chicago. Remember, Chicago is the most racially segregated city in the country and one doesn't have to go far to find Illinois folks with such racial animus that they'd be happy to help dig up stuff against Hussein.
I haven't checked the calendar but I bet one can plot the likely launch of attacks by Hillaryites.
I think the NYT realizes that Hussein has, all this time, been stepping on the rocks and not walking on the water, and is hedging a bet.  

By Anonymous Pat Casey, at Fri Jul 04, 10:35:00 AM:

Uh, Rob, that is precisely his point.  

By Blogger K T Cat, at Fri Jul 04, 10:35:00 AM:

Who cares who the rubes are? I get this feeling that Obama is this inexorable wave sweeping towards the White House. It's not like the NYT could take a position one way or the other and help defeat him.

Obama may be the ultimate manifestation of the short attention span generation. Positions don't matter any more. It's all about the packaging.  

By Anonymous Moneyrunner, at Fri Jul 04, 10:36:00 AM:

Krauthammer comments on the flips and flops. But the question remains: who are his fans (short for fanatics)?

Here's my take:
It's not the changing positions I mind as the "explanations" that assume I'm stupid; that I'm an Alzheimer's sufferer whose memory is blank beyond the last 5 seconds.

I realize that for some, the fact that he's "cute" is all that's required.

For others the fact that he's a Democrat.

Or that he's "black." ("Vote for the half-Kenyan")

For still others it's the belief that he's lying to fool the rubes while "we" know what he really means.

For his acolytes, Obama in his own words:

I serve as a blank screen,” he wrote in “The Audacity of Hope,” “on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.”
That's what he's good at: glittering generalities with no substance: "Hope" and "The Future is Before Us" and "We Can." What in incredible blankness on which those who need to believe in something can dream their own dreams. But dreams often turn into nightmares. And what I fear is that a man with so little regard for the truth, a man with such unsavory associates, will be America's nighmare.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Jul 04, 11:58:00 AM:

bgates said: "Anyone who believes all campaign statements are lies is a fool who mistakes unthinking cynicism for sophistication."

I interpet that to mean that not all campaign promises are lies, just because many of them are, and that assuming all are lies is not a mark of sopphistication, but of simple cynicism.

But I admit it didn't hit me that way at first - I had to reread it carefully.

And oh yeah, I agree, and I also observe that most people who hold that cynical view are Democrats.

Projection isn't just something that happens in a little room at the back of the Cineplex, you know?

Oh, and this is anonymous ONLY because I have long ago given up trying to use the Google / Blogger id system - what a piece of garbage.  

By Anonymous pashley, at Fri Jul 04, 12:16:00 PM:

Its just theater. Candidate goes left, wins the nomination. Left group expresses outrage that the candidate doesn't go left enough. Candidate goes right for the election. Left group expresses outrage that he has abandonned his principles. Two-steps-left, tap-your-toe. Two-steps-right, do-se-do.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Jul 04, 12:50:00 PM:

>I serve as a blank screen,” he wrote in “The Audacity of Hope,” “on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.”

Ahh...Obama is the Mirror of Erised. A font of dreams without reality.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Jul 04, 01:00:00 PM:

Obama as Blank Screen...forever from this day forward known as...BS  

By Blogger Elise, at Fri Jul 04, 01:07:00 PM:

Of the three choices, I go with a variant of Door Number 1. I don't think the NYT editors genuinely believed Obama could win the general election with his "primary season policy ideas" but I do think they believed he could win by selling himself rather than his policies. Obama was presented as a sort of a liberal uber-McCain who always told us the truth even when that was tough. Voters would embrace him because even if they disagreed with his policies they would understand he was a standup guy and therefore the right kind of man to lead us.

Thus the problem with him pivoting to the center is only partially that he is abandoning policies the NYT likes. It's also that he is seriously damaging the whole "standup guy" image. I think Obama is aware of this and that's why he tried to cast his campaign finance pivot as a high-minded decision rather than a financial one. That recasting didn't go too well and he doesn’t seem to making any attempt to put a high-minded spin on FISA, gun control, or the death penalty.

A pivot on Iraq withdrawal would be huge but with his rhetorical skills, Obama should be able to recast it pretty easily. The most effective way would be to visit Iraq and then express a “stay the course” position as resulting from talking with everyday Iraqis who want the US to finish the job. If he can present the elements of the basic conservative argument - democracy good; fear of Iran; get rid of terrorists; don’t waste lives already lost; progress being made - as coming not from those nasty militaristic Republicans but from Iraqis who want for their children what we all want for ours, he might well get away with it. It depends on how badly damaged Obama’s reputation as a Teller of Tough Truths is by that time but the man has been able to pull off some amazing feats so far.

Of course, if Obama does pivot on Iraq and doesn’t manage to recast it effectively, that might open up the Convention. As I have argued elsewhere, if Obama’s supporters grow disenchanted enough to look elsewhere they might turn to Al Gore. However, if disillusionment with Obama puts them off messianic figures in general, Hillary Clinton might look good to them: a plain old politician who never tried to con them by pretending to be anything else.  

By Blogger tweedburst, at Fri Jul 04, 02:03:00 PM:

The media will spend the summer establishing their faux credibility by tsk-tsking about a handful of Obama issues. Come September, there will be an tidal wave of aggressive Obama campaigning by the media that will make the work of the North Korean press look tame by comparison.  

By Blogger tweedburst, at Fri Jul 04, 02:04:00 PM:

doh...a tidal wave  

By Anonymous b10621, at Fri Jul 04, 03:34:00 PM:

I second Moneyrunner's remarks.

As for Bruce Rheinstein's "Don't you just hate the Politics of Cynicism?®", that's not a registered trademark so use of the registration symbol is improper (sorry for being off-topic).  

By Blogger Seerak, at Fri Jul 04, 06:45:00 PM:

Obama as Blank Screen...forever from this day forward known as...BS

Partaking of such BS can nonetheless be fatal. Ask those who bought into the "Blank Screen" being described here (the identity of the "Blank Screen" is evident in the quote source, cited at the end):

The true aim of political propaganda is not to influence, but to study the masses. The speaker is in constant communication with the masses; he hears an echo, and senses the inner vibration. In forever setting new and contradictory assertions before his audience, THE BLANK SCREEN is tapping the outwardly shapeless substance of public opinion with instruments of varying metals and varying weights. When a resonance issues from the depths of the substance, the masses have given him the pitch; he knows in what terms he must finally address them.

Rather than as a means of directing the mass mind, propaganda is a technique for riding with the masses. It is not a machine to make wind, but a sail to catch the wind.

Source below:

(pp137-140, "Der Fuehrer" by Konrad Heiden, 1944 edition, Houghton-Mifflin, translated by Ralph Mannheim.)  

By Blogger Bruce Rheinstein, at Fri Jul 04, 07:52:00 PM:

that's not a registered trademark so use of the registration symbol is improper

Irony is lost on some people.  

By Anonymous John D, at Sat Jul 05, 03:10:00 AM:

It is believable that they think this because they live inside a Manhattan cocoon

Not true! They helicopter out to The Hamptons every weekend  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jul 05, 12:04:00 PM:

Are you lying to your own readers, or are you so wedded to your own reading of the Constitution -- the anti-freedom reading -- that you will not give it up even when Ruth Bader Ginsberg (for example) disagrees with you?

Obviously, the answer is behind door number two.

The company deserves to fail, the Sulzbergers should get jobs, and the crusaders populating the news room will need to emerge from their cocoon and go into the world of bridges and tunnels, also looking for something else to do once their narrative is rejected by their audience. May that happen quickly!  

By Blogger CK MacLeod, at Sat Jul 05, 02:53:00 PM:

One more possibility. They don't care especially much about these flops, but they're trying to discourage the "Moby Dick" of flops that they can spot on the horizon -- the one that will make a lie of five years of NYT stories, the one that buries the Vietnam syndrome as an article of faith, the one that will require them to flop in order to defend it.
I go with a variation on this theory, which also happens to be close to the justification implicit in the editorial itself. The editorial is a would-be shot across the bow, or, if you prefer, a squeal of pain: "You're going too far, Chosen One - we're not sure that we can take it anymore."

On Iraq, the editors don't yet accept that BHO is running away from their favored "run away!" policy, but are threatening to apply it to him if he does so. Iraq may also not be the only sacred commitment they're afraid he might muddle or trash: They're reminding him that a politics of pure triangulation is not going to be acceptable to the left. They're keeping score, and he better wrap up his pay-off with a big red ribbon if he wants them (not just the NYT board) on his side.

Most likely, they'll find some reason to run away from that, too, if he puts them to the test.  

By Anonymous Queen1, at Sat Jul 05, 05:06:00 PM:

Obama's comments about being a blank slate are the most telling...the only thing HE believes in--or sees necessary to believe in--is his right to power. Once in power, he will do whatever he can get away with. Along the way, he is counting on the cult-reaction to him to sweep him in to office.

I think the NYT really believed him--although I can't quite grasp how anyone who didn't just fall off the turnip truck could not see him for the megalomaniac he is. Perhaps, on second thought, they do see him truly--they just really liked what he promised to do. What they can't believe is that he sees his rise to power as the whole point of the exercise; they really, really want a second coming of JFK. (And let's not go there.)


By Blogger Paul, at Sat Jul 05, 05:46:00 PM:

Um, isn't the interpretation of the editorial that is, by default, the most plausible that it should be taken at face value? The intellectual contortions required to attribute these sorts of weird triple-bank-shot conspiracy theories to the Times are only necessary if there's some good reason to suppose that the editorial staff is engaged in some kind of elaborate, coordinated, and deceptive plot to...well, it's not even clear what people think the Times underlying goal is.

But somehow the possibility that their just righting a straight-forward editorial is not fit to consider.  

By Blogger LifeoftheMind, at Sat Jul 05, 08:14:00 PM:

The suggestion by Elise that there might be a window for Hillary to exploit at the convention is intriguing. If Obama starts melting before the Olympics suck up all the media attention then Hillary may unleash whatever bombs she has been hoarding. The window is of course very narrow for her to turn around in if she intends to stab him. There are $10,000,000 worth of reason for her to simply Move On.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jul 05, 10:49:00 PM:

She already has the money. Now, it's a case of "what have you done for me today." If Obama isn't natural born, and she hasn't released her delegates, she could end up winning the nomination by default, literally.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 06, 06:32:00 AM:

If you plan to use a ten-dollar word like 'ascribed' in your NY Times editorial, you should look it up first to make sure you know what it means. Jackasses.  

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