Ethics Final For Barack Obama

Is President Obama the fair, ethical, unifying, anti-partisan president of all the people that he promised to be in 2008, or is he a Machiavellian, undercover Chicago pol, willing and ready to use divisiveness and deceit to enhance his power, silence critics and advance his agenda? During the past two years, there has been ample evidence supporting both descriptions, but his address in Arizona Wednesday could settle the issue. If the President emulates his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton, using the massacre in Arizona as a political wedge the way Clinton used the Oklahoma City bombing—if he adopts the philosophy of former Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emmanuel that one should never waste a crisis—then we will know the dispiriting truth about Barack Obama.

This morning, several commentators have speculated that the President will not politicize this most non-political of tragedies, despite getting strong signals from the Obama-philic news media that they would be happy to assist him. I hope they are right, but I have doubts. This most incompetently-advised of all presidents is sure to be receiving plenty of reminders about how the Dick Morris strategy for turning the Oklahoma City bombing into partisan gain worked like a charm. On April 27, 1995, right after McVeigh’s fatal attack, Morris presented Clinton with a plan based on his polling, which he  included in the paperback version of his memoir, “Behind the Oval Office.” The April 27 agenda began:


A. Temporary gain: boost in ratings–here today, gone tomorrow

B. More permanent gain: Improvements in character/personality attributes–remedies weakness, incompetence, ineffectiveness found in recent poll

C. Permanent possible gain: sets up Extremist Issue vs. Republicans

In January of 2011, the media and others have already teed up this ball for Obama, should he be opportunistic enough to strike it.

Yesterday, long after any efforts to link Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, and harsh partisan rhetoric to the shootings should have retreated in embarrassment, the theme continued. In a jaw-dropping interview with Megyn Kelly on Fox News, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who set off the finger-pointing with his inflammatory remarks over the weekend, refused to back off of his accusation that Rep. Giffords’ shooting was somehow primed by intemperate political discourse, even after acknowledging that there was no indication that this was true, and that Jared Loughner was mad as a hatter. Dupnik was the personification of the old line, “My mind’s made up; don’t confuse me with facts.” But the media was hardly any better. On MSNBC’s “Hardball,” for example, Chris Matthews continued to show the year-old Sarah Palin map of targeted House seats, with Giffords’s district in the cross-hairs. Since there is absolutely no indication that Loughner paid any attention to Palin, and a great deal of  evidence that he was driven to violence by factors having nothing to do with politics, how can this be justified, except as a dishonest and unfair attempt to get the public to associate Palin with five murders and 20 shootings? It seems to be working, too: on “TMZ”, a reader poll yesterday asked if Sarah Palin shared blame for the shootings. 45% answered “yes”. Gee…I wonder where they got that idea?

The network news anchors’ handling of the story was uniformly disgraceful, broadcast journalism at its worst:

  • “It was, by all accounts, a lone and very disturbed man who shot that gun on Saturday,” ABC’s Diane Sawyer began, “but nonetheless, as we all know, a lot of people began asking questions for different reasons. Is this a moment we can talk about what is civility and respect in America?”

No, it isn’t—because the shooting had absolutely nothing to do with civility and respect. Any time is a good time to talk about civility and respect, except when the timing is manipulated to make vigorous debate appear to be an accessory to murder.

  • From Tucson, CBS’s shameless Katie Couric set up the story this way: “We may never know for sure what drove Jared Loughner to open fire here last Saturday, but some, on both ends of the political spectrum, say the vitriolic rhetoric we hear every day was a factor.”

Yes, and some say that Dick Cheney was behind 9/11, and some others say that Barack Obama was born in Nigeria…and all of these “some” have exactly as much legitimacy and relevance as the “some” who say that “vitriolic rhetoric” is what caused a madman obsessed with mind-control to start shooting. You know who the “some” are, Katie? You, and other unprofessional, biased journalists trying to turn a massacre into public anger at conservatives.

  • Over at NBC, anchor Brian Williams queried: “Has political speech in this country become too charged, too toxic, and did it play a role in this tragedy?”

Since the obvious answer to the second question is “no”, why ask the first question—unless Williams was trying to suggest that the answer to the second question was “yes”?

  • To me, the most disingenuous comment of all was NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who dealt this bit of intellectual dishonesty: “Whether or not there is any connection between Saturday’s shooting and angry rhetoric, it has certainly reignited the debate over political speech between right and left.”

And why is that, Andrea? It is because you and your colleagues, in a naked display of partisan reporting, chose to create a connection that did not exist.

It fell to ABC’s Jake Tapper to complete the media’s total distortion of the Tucson shooting into an indictment of Palin, the Tea Party, Rush Limbaugh, and the rest.  “One acquaintance from 2007 said the shooter was liberal and his obsession with Giffords pre-dates Sarah Palin’s much criticized map of congressional targets for defeat, including Giffords, by three years,” Tapper said. “So, from the right, come charges of political opportunism by the left.” “From the right?” Perfect: now criticism of the media’s atrociously biased and incompetent reporting is labeled “partisan,” giving the Washington Post, New York Times, and others leave to dismiss it as “a conservative media story.”

It is not a conservative news story. Every fair journalist, commentator, public figure and citizen should be outraged over the attempt to politicize a completely non-political tragedy. Every fair journalist, commentator, public figure and citizen should resent the effort to use the Tucson shooting to attack the Tea Party, Sarah Palin and talk radio, whether they agree with them or not. So far, only Senator Dick Durbin, media critic Howard Kurtz and a hand-full of others have been distinguished themselves on the left.

Will Obama join them in his speech tomorrow? That may be too much to ask, though it would certainly show him to be a true statesman. If he confines his remarks to the event itself, its senselessness, and the importance of all Americans standing united against  violence, whatever its motivation, that will be enough.

If however, President Obama mentions tolerance, civility, the need to “turn down the rhetoric,” or any other themes based purely on the media-fabricated connection between conservative criticism of Democratic policies and a Mein Kampf-reading registered Independent who had lost his mind, we will know that Obama is following his White House’s own Oklahoma City game plan, and that will settle any lingering questions about his integrity, fairness, judgment, courage and character.

Let us hope that he passes the test.


UPDATE: Not only did the President not support the dishonest and partisan blame-casting, but specifically rejected it. He not only passed his ethics test; he aced it.


9 thoughts on “Ethics Final For Barack Obama

  1. I can’t argue with THAT point, for sure. But Mark Penn was Clinton’s pollster, so when he said the Dems needed an “Oklahoma City event”, I think it gives Morris’s account some credibility, don’t you?

    And St. Augustine wouldn’t say anything about civility at a memorial service for victims who were not killed by incivility. He was smarter than that. He’d pass.

    • As I recall, Ok City helped Clinton precisely because he eloquently expressed a nation’s horror and hope, not because he did what Dick Morris now says he did. Morris has no credibility even when he says “and” or “the.” (Apologies to Mary McCarthy)

      • Well, there also WAS a legitimate link to be made in that case. McVeigh was a militia type; he did represent the extreme anti-government position, and while he was much farther along the extreme end of the spectrum than Newt and Co., the argument that anti-government rhetoric could metastasize had some validity in that context. The linkage, while expedient, was not dishonest, as in the current instance.

        You can’t get around the fact, though, that Clinton hired Morris and used him as an advisor for a long time. He was as much a sleaze then as now, and Bill was not adverse to making use of his ethics-free methods.

  2. Dear Jack:

    I still hold to my opinion that Sheriff Dupnik is continuing his political slams as a smokescreen for his own incompetance. As I (and now, Mark Fuhrman last night on “Hannity”) have pointed out, he and his department failed not only to provide even a single patrolman to cover the Giffords meeting, but likewise failed in numerous legitimate cases to haul Loughner in for mental evaluation. I only hope he can manage to properly handle the little girl’s funeral with the Westboro morons coming to town. Thank God the veterans’ motorcycle groups (who are used to dealing with them!) will also be present. Governor Brewer’s quarantine edict was timely and well done.

    As for Obama’s trip to the scene; I think that it’s ill-conceived. The very fact that THE top politician will come to a private funeral personally carries with it political overtones by itself; no matter what he says or does there. Sending flowers and sympathies would have been better. Dick Durbin seems to have been the only major Democrat to understand that trying to make political mileage out of this stands to backfire on his party, given the background of the killer. His warnings have gone largely unheeded with his party still in turmoil and its adherents desperate for some political traction. One wrong word from Obama at these proceedings could prove irreparable.

    Personally, I think it’s enough that a 9 year old child was slain and that her loved ones should have a chance to grieve privately at her funeral. The last thing they should have to endure- on top of this- is a political circus and crazed protesters. What kind of country has this become where we can’t even bury our beloved and honored dead in peace?

    • I think the Sheriff is covering his butt for sure—it doesn’t explain or excuse the media taking their cues from a headline-seeking clod. I think Obama had to go to the service, if only because delivering canned speeches is his core talent. He couldn’t give a Challenger-like speech from the White House, because this was a local event, and many would ask why the routine carnage in his back yard–DC, Prince George’s County—doesn’t warrant similar attention. He had better be careful, for sure. The majority of Americans, blessedly, aren’t buying the media’s trumped up link between political rhetoric and a wacko’s rampage, and if he goes down that road, he will look petty and foolish…just like the sheriff, Chris Matthews, Jane Fonda, and the rest.

      • I can’t blame Obama for going to Tucson. In fact, I agree with you that he ought to go… if for no other reason than a gesture of solidarity AND to get that idiot pseudo-Sheriff to shut up. But speaking at this funeral carries with it both destructive political overtones and inserts him into what should be an occasion for families to grieve in private over the death of a beloved child. There’s going to be enough trouble with the Westboro cretins as it is. If Obama wants to make a speech, I’d suggest that a location in a Tucson civic center would be more appropriate.

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