On Obama, the Post ignores shades of gray

An "identity crisis" in "the liberal blogosphere"? A "chorus" of "praise" from the right? Not exactly.

By Tim Grieve
January 8, 2008 7:00PM (UTC)
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On what's looking like a big day for Barack Obama in New Hampshire, the Washington Post gets things started by noting that the candidate is "Not Such a Hit in the Battling Blogosphere" but that the "Conservative Media Chorus Sings Obama's Praises."

There's a bit of overstatement here on both fronts.


The Post's Jose Antonio Vargas says that Obama's "strategy of appealing to Republicans and independents" leaves "the liberal blogosphere" in an "identity crisis." What he means by that, apparently: Markos Moulitsas Zúniga has complained that Obama "has made a cottage industry out of attacking the dirty fucking hippies on the left, from labor unions, to Paul Krugman, to Gore and Kerry, to Social Security, and so on ... He is the return of Bill Clinton-style triangulating personified." What Vargas doesn't say: Moulitsas has backed down from that characterization considerably, saying that it's his "perception (arguable, of course), that [Obama] was directing his fire at progressives and progressive institutions." What else Vargas doesn't say: Moulitsas said he was "proud" of the Democratic Party after the Iowa caucuses; Moulitsas has also accused Hillary Clinton of using right-wing talking points; and Moulitsas has said that, when it comes time to cast his ballot, he'll either make a symbolic vote for Chris Dodd -- who's out of the race -- or do his part "to keep California out of the Hillary column" by voting for Obama.

As for the "conservative media chorus" that "sings Obama's praises"? That's the handiwork of the Post's Howard Kurtz, and it's built on a string of snippets ripped movie-blurb style from the pronouncements of various right-wing pundits. Like Joe Klein, we don't have the time to actually check out the accuracy or completeness of most of these. But we noticed that Kurtz quoted Rush Limbaugh as saying that both Obama and Mike Huckabee delivered "really uplifting, inspirational speeches" on the night of the Iowa caucuses, and we didn't have to look to know that Limbaugh actually said something more than that.

We looked anyway. In the same segment in which he called Obama's speech "inspirational," Limbaugh repeated the false accusations that Obama is a "Muslin in disguise" and attended a madrassa. He then made it clear that he had used the word "inspirational" in a sarcastic sense.


"Wasn't that cool? Wasn't that amazing? Wasn't that uplifting? Wasn't that just ... totally wrong?" Limbaugh asked after playing a clip from Obama's speech. "What was that an appeal for? 'Red state America, blue states, we're the United States.' Yes, that means, the codeword there is: bipartisanship. We have to stop the partisan rancor ... Folks, when you hear anybody -- and this gets back to basic conservatism 101 -- when you hear anybody, I don't care if it's a Republican or a Democrat, start talking about 'ending bipartisan,' red flags ought to go up left and right. Partisanship is ideal. Partisanship is crucial. Partisanship is based in ideals and principles, and people who hold those principles dear and are loyal to them will not compromise them. Partisanship founded the country; partisanship propels the country. What we do not need is an end to partisanship. If we finally come up with this notion of bipartisanship across the board and the country's unified, one of two things is actually going to have happened. One side is going to have lost. So the question is, 'Who wins?' The question is victory, not bipartisanship. I would love the bipartisanship of liberalism as a 20 percent body of thought in this country. I could live with that kind of bipartisanship. The idea is to defeat them! Liberalism poses threats and dangers to this country, and your economic security, and your economic future. Liberals are to be defeated, not to be gotten along with. It's the nature of American politics."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama Rush Limbaugh War Room