Friday, May 28, 2010

Editorial: Obama simply doesn't get it

The unnamed Courier editor has two complaints about the President, which he rolls into a conclusion that he is "not leading" and "can't govern." One is that he isn't going to Arlington to lay a wreath this weekend, and the other that he "hasn't done much" to fix the oil leak in the Gulf.

On the first, a couple of commenters are already ahead of me on the fact-checking, pointing out that the editor is plain wrong in calling the wreath-laying "a task every American president has performed every year since 1868." I'm still looking for the editorial calling for the President to respect the troops and keep them out of unnecessary and illegal wars. I'll let you know if I find it. I also wonder what the editor would write if the President were to come to Prescott to speak at the vet's cemetery -- as he is doing in Chicago.

On the second, I've heard a lot of this criticism in the media from the President's political opponents, and I've heard essentially nothing about what he was supposed to do better or faster. I wouldn't be surprised if the bureaucracy has been slow -- that's a weakness of every large organization, and I notice that the MMS director was fired this week -- but I haven't heard that the orders from the administration have been slow or confused. I'd love to hear specifics. Gad knows this is a disaster of epic proportions. But there are also practical limits on what can be done, particularly given that the regulatory structure has been thoroughly gutted by previous oil-loving administrations. Perhaps the editor is holding back something he knows. On the other hand, it seems a little more likely that the authoritarian mindset simply imagines that elected officials are kings or superheroes, who can simply order a thing done and it is done. But I'll take another slice with Occam's Razor and bet that the editor hasn't thought any more about this than what his Fox News heroes are ranting.

As for the President's ability to govern, I have to point out that neither disaster-management nor wreath-laying have anything at all to do with governance. I admit this might be a bit too subtle a point for the editor.

National news is not your beat, editor, it's not your forte and it's clearly not even of particular interest to you. Stick to your knitting.

Followup: WSJ, today

Update, Saturday: This comment really stands out for me, from "Phoenix Journalist": You are a small community publication, and while that may be cause for lower distribution and salaries, it doesn't equate to lower standards. If you don't understand a subject, and you don't have staff with the skills set needed to research it, either don't write about it or hire staff with well-established experience. Your audience may have certain biases and perhaps you are simply playing to those, but you do it a greater disservice by creating or encouraging false reports and distortions of the facts. Truth in journalism is paramount to a free society.

Update, Sunday: Could it be that the editor is calling on the administration to nationalize BP America?

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