Monday, September 06, 2010

Balz on the Mainstream Megaphone

Oh  jeezusmaryandjoseph do we have to go through this again.  Well, seeing that it is the Washington Post, I guess the answer is yes.  Yes, we have to go through this again.   That is: here's  Dan Balz in an actually rather interesting and helpful analysis of Obama as "the polarizing president."     Well, yes: Balz is surely right that Obama is far more "polarizing" than we or he suspected at the start, and Balz has  hoovered up some useful and instructive data to support the point.  For example, here's George C. Edwards III of Texas A& M University, noting that "the number of states that deviated significantly from the national vote was more than in any election in 60 years, including 14 that went for John McCain." '"Never before,'" per Edwards per Balz "''had many of these states voted so heavily against a victorious Democrat,' Edwards writes, citing the work of others."

And here's Gary Jacobson of the University of California at San Diego, noting (per Balz) "that Obama's coalition included one of the smallest shares of voters who identified with the opposing party on record. He won because of 'unusually high turnout among Democrats" and the fact that the Republican Party had shrunk during President George W. Bush's second term.'"

So far, fine. But then Balz tiptoes out onto the thin ice:
Views of Obama as a leftist, as an extremist, as a would-be socialist, as dishonest - all of which became commonplace among some "tea party" activists and other conservative opponents once he was in office - were implanted during the campaign against McCain.

"A large proportion of voters on the losing side in 2008 . . . had by election day come to regard Obama as the McCain-Palin campaign had portrayed him: as an untrustworthy leftist radical with a socialist agenda," Jacobson writes. "There was also an undertone of racial animosity."
 Yes, yes, yes.  But what occult presence still prevents Balz from pointing his finger at the giant toad in the tiny punchbowl, specifically, that Obama is not a lefty--??   You cannot understand this story--the weirdness and irony of it all--unless you understand how wildly inappropriate is the whole leftist paranoia thing.

Recall: I'm speaking not as a lefty here, and I'm speaking as one who is more than a little disappointed with our president.  But the idea that he's stumbled over into some left agenda is just ludicrous.  Item: Guantanamo is still open.  Item: the war continues--really, both wars.  Item, he's ducked immigration, he's caved on cape-and-trade, and he's wuzzing out on soak-the-rich taxation. Item, he's still in the lap of Goldman, Sachs. Item, his biggest legislative achievement, if it is an achievement, comes straight out of the playbook of Mitt Romney.  Item, he isn't willing to say anything that might hurt the feelings of a Republican.

That last, of course, points to the real failure of the Obama presidency--his ineffectiveness as a leader, his seeming inability to define the agenda, his allowing Republicans--and supposed "nonpartisans" like Dan Balz--to capture the narrative.

I'm sure Balz understands all this.  I think he's just hiding behind the laziness of supposed "objectivity."  But "objectivity" is  not the issue here:  with just a bit of effort here, Balz can perfectly well retain his cherished "objectivity" and still point out the glaring disconnect in the prevailing narrative.

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