It shows the degree to which we now take bias and favoritism by the news media for granted that a reporter doing what once was regarded as his duty now appears heroic. Sadly, that is where we are.
That is also why Jake Tapper warrants an Ethics Hero designation for pressing White House press secretary Jay Carney on the obvious disconnect between President Obama’s lecture on civility in January in the wake of the Giffords shooting, and his happy acceptance of the call by Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. to “take these sons of bitches out” at a rally over the weekend. The exchange:
TAPPER: And, lastly, Jay, in January, President Obama said, after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, “At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay all the ills of the world at people who think differently than we do, it’s important to pause for a moment to make sure that we are talking to each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.” Did he mean that?
JAY CARNEY: Of course he did.
TAPPER: How does– How do the comments by the teamster’s president fit in with that?
CARNEY: Well, first of all, those weren’t comments by the President. The President wasn’t there. Secondly, and I think has been reported…
TAPPER: Comments by a union leader at an event that President Obama spoke at.
CARNEY: I understand that there is a ritual in Washington that somebody said something and then you link the associations and then everyone who has an association with him or her somehow has to avow or disavow. The President wasn’t there. I mean, he wasn’t on stage. He didn’t speak for another twenty minutes. He didn’t hear it. I really don’t have any comment beyond that.
TAPPER: Okay, well, some of us covered the campaign and recall a time when someone made some harsh comments about then-Senator Obama while- during an introduction of a McCain rally and the Obama campaign was offended and expected an apology and Senator McCain came out and did so.
CARNEY: Well- Mr. Hoffa speaks for himself. He speaks for the labor movement, AFL-CIO. The President speaks for himself. I speak for the President. What the President was glad to do yesterday was have the opportunity to present his views on working Americans and the importance of taking measures to help working Americans to create jobs to grow the economy.
TAPPER: So, the President you’re setting right now for the 2012 election is the candidates- the Republican candidates are the ones that we need to pay attention to and those who introduce them at rallies, their surrogates, you don’t have to pay attention to anything they say.
CARNEY: Jake, I think I’ve said what I can say.
TAPPER: Is that the standard now?
CARNEY: You can report it as you like.
TAPPER: I’d rather not have to do this Washington Kabuki every time something happens, but if that’s the standard, if that’s the standard …
CARNEY: The standard is, we should focus on the actions we can take to grow the economy and create jobs, instead of focusing on Kabuki theater.
Excellent work, Mr. Tapper. Note how Carney retreated to the same talking point that Debbie Wasserman Schultz used when she was refusing to repudiate Hoff’s language on Fox earlier in the day. Not also that; his answer makes no sense, especially in light of the Democratic attempts earlier in the year to claim that extreme conservative rhetoric was creating the risk of violence. This was not, as Carney suggested, an attempt at guilt by association. This is a question of endorsement or rejection, for a President who ran on a platform of changing the tone of political discourse in America. Now that the poll numbers are heading southward, is Obama still a man of his word? Or was it just convenient to use civility as a way to muzzle legitimate criticism, and now that his own campaign wants to go negative, anything, even vulgar name-calling, is acceptable?
If reporters like Tapper don’t insist on answers to questions like this, the American public cannot learn which officials have integrity, which officials stand by their words, and which officials they can trust. Jay Carney “speaks for the President,” and he refused to repudiate uncivil rhetoric when it came from an ally.
I think Jake Tapper got his answer, and do did we.
Thanks, Jake. I just wish the answer had been different.