Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 20, 2011

WHEN THE 'BLAME OBAMA FIRST' CROWD GOES OVERBOARD.... Visitors to the Daily Caller's website today were greeted with a remarkable headline: "First Lady's Anti-Obesity Campaign Could Be Causing More Pedestrian Deaths." The accompanying piece was entirely serious.

Pedestrian deaths increased sharply during the first half of 2010, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). On Wednesday, the Executive Director of the GHSA accused the first lady's obesity program of causing the deaths by encouraging people to exercise.

In an interview with the Washington Examiner, GHSA Executive Director Barbara Harsha said that while there are not yet definitive answers as to why there were more pedestrian deaths in 2010 than 2009, Obama's "get moving" movement could be at least partially to blame.

"There's an emphasis these days to getting fit, and I think people doing that are more exposed to risk [of getting hit by a vehicle]," Harsha told the Examiner. "Obviously, further study is needed."

Harsha also said electronic devices such as cell phones and iPods could have contributed to the higher death rate.

This extremely silly argument apparently originated with the conservative Washington Examiner, which initially quoted the GHSA's Harsha, but the Daily Caller picking up on this helped bring a lot of additional attention to the "story."

There some fairly dramatic problems with this. For example, Harsha insists she was misquoted. "If [people] do walk more, they need to be aware of their surroundings and do so in a safe manner," she told The Atlantic. But we support the goal of getting people to be more active."

What's more, there is no "sharp" increase. Pedestrian deaths went from 1,884 to 1,891 nationwide. That's an increase of seven -- not seven percent, seven individual people.

But putting these details aside, it's worth appreciating the fact that we've reached an unfortunate point. In addition to all of the various political criticisms, blaming the White House for all sorts of odd things, we now have major conservative outlets advancing an argument that indirectly blames the First Lady for pedestrian traffic deaths. Our discourse really has to be better than this.

Sarah Goodyear's conclusion, meanwhile, was probably the most amusing reaction to all of this: "There are a lot of things to hate about this story: The reflexive demonization of the First Lady. The manufacturing of a trend out of very thin statistical fabric. The blaming of victims who can't defend themselves. But what might be most depressing about the whole ridiculous thing is that in this country, merely wanting to walk from one place to another can qualify you as being 'into physical fitness.'"

Steve Benen 2:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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They've got nothing else. Any real policy debates are a loser for that crowd, so they resort to stoking racial resentment, petty grievances, made up 'facts', and conspiracy theories to reinforce their persecution complexes and false sense of legitimacy.

Posted by: Holmes on January 20, 2011 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

As if Walmart shoppers are jogging to the store.

Right.

Posted by: Kill Bill on January 20, 2011 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

I just clicked through to Daily Caller's website. They now have an "Update" with disclaimer that Harsha says she was misquoted. The headline as of 2:26 PM reads:

Highway safety spokesperson blames pedestrian deaths on Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign?

I wonder if the question mark was in the original posting.

I also wonder if at 5:16 the headline will read "Daily Caller Stoops to New Low to Blame Obama!"

Probably not.

Posted by: Eeyore on January 20, 2011 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

I thought this was a joke. Something one would see in The Onion. I'm sure most people would think the same for this is truly ridiculous.

Posted by: whichwitch on January 20, 2011 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

Well it is one thing to preach about positive things which enhance the quality of life that only require a walk between , hither , thither , and yon . However it is an entirely different matter when you start identifying team shoes and place cross hairs on poorly made shoes . It only makes matters worse , not better , when having found a weak shoe market to call for the shoe shelves to be reloaded , When . They . are Not . Unloaded .
The irresponsible thing to do after the morgues are swamped through the macabre ends of the shoe business , is to deny the public spirited individuals their due , who through their own industry kept the slaughter of well meaning shoe walking people from becoming a biblical slaughter .
I imagine even a poor woman with personal issues of the sort that leave many other wise open dates on her calendar would propose that placing "Spirited" and well meaning cross hairs on the "Victimized" shoes may have been an ill advised action that a reasonable woman with a full social calendar might airily dismiss without any second thoughts .
Next ! The tragedy of poor sods buying sad soap ...

Posted by: FRP on January 20, 2011 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

In other news, an Official Government Study shows that people who live in two story houses are more likely to die falling down stairs, compared to trailer dwellers. . .

Posted by: DAY on January 20, 2011 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

I saw the headline on Drudge and laughed. The anti-Michelle line of attack is a loser for the zealots but they can't help themselves. They gorge themselves on Obama demonology to the point where even the most lurid and off-the-wall speculations are endlessly chewed over. In the end, all they have for solace is their own pettiness and ignorance.

Posted by: walt on January 20, 2011 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

I love the smell of right wing desperation in the morning. The Washington Examiner makes an excellent birdcage liner or underlayment for my cat's litter box. To paraphrase Randy Quaid in "Christmas Vacation," "it's a quality item".

Posted by: max on January 20, 2011 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

The article went on to say that the resulting deaths from those Obama Anti-Obesity Campaign exercisers could be directly linked to Mrs. Obama's husband's foolhardy attempt to help the auto industry with his Federally funded Program, "Cash For Clunkers". It suggests that all those new cars on the street replacing those old junkers that didn't work resulted in an increase of 7 deaths since last year.

When is that Obama guy and his wife going to wise up?

Posted by: stevio on January 20, 2011 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

In a related story, republicans have attacked the HCR bill, citing a study that indicates that sick people go to doctors.

"The democrats want people to be sick" one congrasshole was quoted as saying.

Posted by: bignose on January 20, 2011 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

Michelle Obama murdered Vince Foster. You heard it here first.

Posted by: SaintZak on January 20, 2011 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

I thought this was a joke. Something one would see in The Onion. I'm sure most people would think the same for this is truly ridiculous.

Posted by: whichwitch on January 20, 2011 at 2:27 PM

Honestly, I don't know how the writers at The Onion can even keep up; trying to parody these people has got to be the hardest job in the world.

Now, how long does everyone think it will be before Breitbart, Erickson or some other sad sack, pasty white wingnut declares this story as "proof" that Michelle Obama is guilty of "murder."

Posted by: electrolite on January 20, 2011 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

This is a statistically insignificant difference. One wonders if they would similarly trumpet the decrease if it were the same size? Doubtfully. They'd no doubt get statistical religion, and notice that it's not a difference that's meaningful...

Posted by: truth=freedom on January 20, 2011 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

good grief ...

How about the drivers mowing down these pedestrians?

But seriously, stranger that fiction.

Posted by: Tang on January 20, 2011 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

I think more depressing is that having no other choice than to walk from one place to another can qualify you as being "into physical fitness."

Posted by: karen marie on January 20, 2011 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

I knew it! Expecting people to walk or ride bikes instead of driving is tantamount to Communo-fascism! Real 'murrkins don't get off the couch in front of the TV except to get into a good, God-fearing, patriotic SUV.

Posted by: T-Rex on January 20, 2011 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

"Americans too dumb to walk straight." Yeah, that's a winner.

If indeed the slight increase in pedestrian deaths is due to more pedestrians being on the road, the cause may just as well be due to people choosing to walk for economic reasons, i.e. can't afford to drive. If so, there should be some evidence of it.

Have we seen the headline yet about the government takeover of retail groceries, re: Michelle Obama's team-up with Wal-Mart for healthier food?

Posted by: Grumpy on January 20, 2011 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

If it's silly why do you print it? Seems like this just helps keep up the endless loop of silly stories.

Posted by: Chris on January 20, 2011 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Is there another human being on earth besides Drudge who takes Tucker Carlson seriously?

Posted by: hells littlest angel on January 20, 2011 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't want to live by this Harsha! She sounds like Eunice Kravitz of Bewitched.

Question: When do we see the most idiocy in our nation?

Answer: When intellectual idiots get their own column space or blogpage! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 20, 2011 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

Literally too stupid for words.

Posted by: jjstraka on January 20, 2011 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

I knew it! Expecting people to walk or ride bikes instead of driving is tantamount to Communo-fascism! Real 'murrkins don't get off the couch in front of the TV except to get into a good, God-fearing, patriotic SUV.

Posted by: T-Rex on January 20, 2011 at 2:49 PM

Channelling Dan Maes again, eh?

Posted by: Rasputin22 on January 20, 2011 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

I blame Wall street because of the high cost of fuel, due to speculation, people arent walking for exercise but because they cant afford the fuel AND food.

Posted by: Kill Bill on January 20, 2011 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

T-Rex: "I knew it! Expecting people to walk or ride bikes instead of driving is tantamount to Communo-fascism!"

You know who else rides bikes? The Red Chinese.

Posted by: Grumpy on January 20, 2011 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

This has got to be one of the most stupid attempted correlations in the history of "journalism" evuh...

Posted by: bonncaruso on January 20, 2011 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Don't stand to close to anyone that purports to believe this flummery, they might explode spontaneously.

Posted by: Gandalf on January 20, 2011 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Just a matter of time before the Daily Caller claims to have the 'whitey' tape.

Posted by: mikefromArlington on January 20, 2011 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

We don't even have data that shows there ARE more pedestrians, right? Just that a significantly insignificant number more got hit? What about that cranky SUV driver who's out there listening to Rush and picking off pedestrians for fun? It's an equally plausible scenario.

Posted by: biggerbox on January 20, 2011 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

Kill Bill: As if Walmart shoppers are jogging to the store. Right.

Fat, stupid proles! Ha ha ha!

Posted by: Chet on January 20, 2011 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

You know who else rides bikes? The Red Chinese.
Posted by: Grumpy on January 20, 2011 at 3:34 PM

Yeah. And George W Bush. What does it say about *him*, eh?

Posted by: exlibra on January 20, 2011 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

Sure that wasn't from The Onion or Borowitz?

Posted by: Eric Riback on January 20, 2011 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

That's just silly. Common sense would have shown them that had the victims been more physically fit and more properly nourished they would have been more alert and fleet of foot and would not have been hit.

Duh.

Posted by: Marnie on January 20, 2011 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

They love their diabetes in the red zone.

Posted by: bob h on January 21, 2011 at 6:36 AM | PERMALINK

The "sharp" increase is less than one half of one percent. That's statistical noise.

Posted by: Nancy Irving on January 23, 2011 at 7:22 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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