Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 7, 2010

THE FINAL TWO TALKING POINTS.... When you cut through all the awkwardly-worded talking points, Republicans complaining about President Obama's handling of the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas day have exactly two arguments: 1) the president took too long to respond publicly to the failed attack; and 2) he doesn't use the word "terrorism." That's it; that's the whole case against the White House.

The complaints are, at face value, superficial. They have nothing to do with national policy, per se, and everything to do with rhetoric and style. Indeed, Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) admitted as much last week when he said of the Obama administration, "Let me make it clear, I think they are doing the right thing as far as their policies." Of course, "their policies" aren't as important to King as their rhetoric, as he conceded yesterday.

If the complaints were merely shallow, that would simply be annoying. But the key to remember here is that the two talking points are as wrong as they are dumb. The first point is easily dismissed by noting that President Obama's response to this failed attempt was faster, more thorough, and offered more depth than President Bush's response to an identical attempt eight years ago. If Obama's strategic decision to delay a response three days signals "weakness," than Bush's six-day delay in 2001 would have to be condemned by conservatives everywhere.

The second point, however, is best debunked by this video, put together by the estimable Jed Lewison.

Jed reminds us, "Keep in mind that while this video features snippets from over two dozen different speeches (including at least one from each month of Obama's presidency), it represents only a small fraction of what the President has said about terrorism and national security."

The accusation that the president and his team decline to use the words "terror" or "terrorism" wasn't just some off-hand line uttered by a Fox News personality -- it was a charge levied repeatedly by Republican House members, senators, and a certain former vice president, all of whom insisted with a straight face that the Commander in Chief refuses to use a word that he's repeated over and over again throughout his presidency.

The entire basis for two weeks of GOP accusations is nothing but a pathetic lie. There's simply no other way to put it.

But let's not let the media off the hook here. The GOP attack dogs keep lying, and major news outlets keep letting them. Every time King, Michael Steele, Jim DeMint, Pete Hoekstra, and others made this charge on the air, there was a journalist conducting the interview. And in every instance, the journalist just let the lie go out to the public, with no pushback at all, despite the fact that the claim is demonstrably ridiculous.

Worse, as Greg Sargent noted on Monday, DeMint not only told the lie on CNN without consequence, but several major outlets ran with his accusation without telling the public how obviously wrong it is. This, in turn, encourages the attack dogs to repeat the lie, knowing it's more likely to undermine the president if Americans don't realize how wrong it is.

My point isn't that the administration's national security policies are beyond reproach, or that we should avoid a debate over how best to prevent future attacks. My point is we can't have that debate because one side of the divide is stuck with absurd talking points that are debunked, as Rachel Maddow put it last night, by "anyone who has a spare 45 seconds and the Google."

There are, I suspect, knowledgeable conservatives somewhere, ready to engage in a serious policy discussion. If they could come out of hiding and maybe run for Congress, we'd all be better off.

Steve Benen 4:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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The so-called liberal media is a tool of the corporate right, and as far as I can tell, the best thing we can do is to avoid watching/reading/listening to them (NPR included).

Thanks to Benen for watching and reading so that we don't have to.

Posted by: Chris on January 7, 2010 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

But even if there were knowledgeable conservatives somewhere that made it to Congress, the media would still only be interested in Newt Gingrich and John McCain.

Posted by: Old School on January 7, 2010 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

The press makes me so angry. I understand why the Republicans lie...they have tons of personal money to lose if Democrats are successful and the uber rich are forced to pay their fair share of taxes. The Fourth Estate,Journalism and the Power of the Press...all great names that should stand for something but they have fallen in to the primordial ooze of Rupert Murdoch et al. The truth isn't important anymore, not to the lime light seeking "journalist" or the bought and paid for corporations that own the mass media. It's disgusting and it lowers America to third world country levels. I'm mad.

Posted by: maggie on January 7, 2010 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

We lie
We know we lie
We will continue to lie
The MSM doesn't care if we lie


Posted by: Marko on January 7, 2010 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

to Marko's observation, I would add two lines to tie up the loose ends:

"Particularly without any help from the MSM, the general public lacks the critical thinking or the effort to catch us in the lie."

and most important:

"Face it: Moral values and setting examples and all that nonsense be damned -- lying works."

Posted by: zeitgeist on January 7, 2010 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

There are, I suspect, knowledgeable conservatives somewhere, ready to engage in a serious policy discussion. If they could come out of hiding and maybe run for Congress, we'd all be better off.

No, there aren't, and no, we wouldn't.

Posted by: Yellow Dog on January 7, 2010 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

For all of the grief that Bush press secretary Scott McClellen took from both left and right for his book apologizing for the lies he either wittingly or unwittingly told from the podium, this was really the core of his epiphany: that there has developed a kind of institutionalized disinformation apparatus -- "the permanent campaign" -- mostly by the GOP that had made sensible policy-making and democratic deliberations impossible.

Throughout most of the book McClellen seems like an idealiastic innocent, a deer in the headlights, who tells how he had become complicit in the prevailing culture of dishonest politics that was quickly eroding our democracy. McClellen tries to be evenhanded and declare a plague on both your houses, but it is pretty clear that he thinks that his own team is largely to blame for the lies and distortions that are now considered routine and acceptable in big-time GOP politics which is mostly concerned only with getting and keeping power.

Posted by: Ted Frier on January 7, 2010 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

I counted 63 times the word terror et al.
Still not enough?

Posted by: apeman on January 7, 2010 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

An honest discussion would include the probability that the increased Al Qaeda activity is an attempt to retaliate for the world of hurt the Predator drone strikes are putting them in in Pakistan. That is, that we are hearing from them is a measure of Obama's determination about taking them on, not his lack of seriousness.

Posted by: bob h on January 7, 2010 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

I think there is a simple explanation here:

The Republicans simply NEVER listen to any of Obama's speeches. After all, why would they?

Posted by: islandgeek on January 7, 2010 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

The complaints are, at face value, superficial.

Please, the complaints are retarded.

Posted by: cld on January 7, 2010 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

This latest display of Republican sophistry reflects a real ugly reality - they've become incestual cannabals, lustfully eating their own! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 7, 2010 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

"Please, the complainANts are retarded"


Posted by: Marko on January 7, 2010 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

While I completely agree that the right wing is mendacious, I think the comparison of Bush's ridiculous delay in responding to the Reid attack is misplaced. Since we all agree that Bush is an idiot, saying Obama did not improperly delay because he responded quicker than Bush is giving Bush too much credit.

Posted by: Pragmatic on January 7, 2010 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

Economic DEATH to the Village and all of its Village Idiots. I won't rest until each of these vile, amoral, corporate-whore stenographers to right-wing liars is UNEMPLOYED,and remains rightly UNEMPLOYABLE.

I repeat: Economic DEATH to the Village! If you support them, giving them money or ratings, YOU are part of the problem, and are contributing to demise of democracy, and this nation!

Posted by: I Me Mine on January 7, 2010 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

To be clear, I don't believe that Obama improperly delayed I just don't think we should base that on comparing Obama to Bush.

Posted by: Pragmatic on January 7, 2010 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

The proliferation of the word "terror" means that the subject is not being swept under the rug now that the elections are over, and by using the word, the topic to which it applies remains in the front of people's minds, policy-makers and Main Street alike.

Compare it to the "abortion" button which gets pulled out at election time, used profusely, and then stored again for four more years after the elections are over.

I hate the word, hate the implications, and hate the need, but as long as US soldiers are engaged in conflict steming from "terror", the issue needs to remain on the front burner. Given the American attention span these days, reiteration helps keep it there.

Posted by: My POV on January 7, 2010 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

' as Rachel Maddow put it last night, by "anyone who has a spare 45 seconds and the Google." '

The next time Rachel has an occasion to remark about the ease of using Google to check / disprove a right-wing talking point, she should use 45 seconds of her program to demonstrate the how-to-check-via-Google-method.

Imagine a tea-party member secretly watching Rachel's show being emboldened to Google-check a right-wing talking-point within the privacy of their own home. Voila, a smarter tea-party member, resulting in better debate all around. No?

Posted by: Bill on January 7, 2010 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

Bill, nice thought, but they actually use the intertubes too.

I bought a rather hefty storm door and paid someone to install it for me last summer. It turns out the guy was the prototypical tea bagger. Before he knew I was a heathen...err...democrat, he noticed I had a laptop docked in my kitchen, and as we had already exchanged a few political comments without really revealing our leanings, he stated that he thanked God for the Internet and that without it we wouldn't know half of what was going on. My curiosity peaked, I asked him what web sites he frequented. He then told me his home page was set to Glenn Beck's website.

I was flabbergasted at the notion that this man really, truly actually believed what was being fed to him by Fox and Glenn Beck.

This is what we are dealing with; systematic brainwashing of otherwise relatively reasonable people.

Posted by: citizen_pain on January 7, 2010 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: citizen_pain on January 7, 2010 at 7:22 PM

Hey citizen_pain, I appreciate what you are saying.

Another benefit of Rachel demonstrating might be many Rachel fans that don't know the how-to-check-via-Google-method would learn how.

Posted by: Bill on January 7, 2010 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

Linda, why are you so focused on inconsequential semantics?

Get over it and focus on more important things. Like educating yourself.

Posted by: citizen_pain on January 7, 2010 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

There are two arguments? Actually, I think you missed the third argument.

3) We think Obama sucks at this because he didn't immediately use rendition to have this guy sent to a black site where he good be properly tortured.

Posted by: DK on January 7, 2010 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

"45 seconds and the google" is not enough. You have to be curious as to the actual facts. I have a friend of many years who has parked his once formidable brain, steeped himself in right wing radio, and resolutely walled himself off from anything resembling honest data--smart enough to see the implications of the first chink in his defenses, he chooses total information unawareness as a strategy.

Posted by: jollyroger on January 7, 2010 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

"total information unawareness"

Jollyroger, that's brilliant!
I am absolutely going to use that -- sadly, I fear that I'll have a large number of opportunities to do so over the next year or three.
Do you want to be credited by any name, handle or descriptor other than "jollyroger at Political Animal?"

Posted by: smartalek on January 7, 2010 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
~Joseph Goebbels~

If you have a complicit media, the State need not intervene.

Posted by: Marc on January 8, 2010 at 7:13 AM | PERMALINK



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