May 5, 2014

The NYT ventures to opine that President Obama is "not good enough."

Yesterday, I avoided blogging the NYT editorial "President Obama and the World" because of its maddeningly bland demeanor. No. I'm kidding. "Maddeningly bland demeanor" is just one of the many phrases within which the editors' opinion was couched. And I got tired of searching around in between the comfy cushions of that couch looking for lost quarters.

"Mr. Obama has opened himself to criticism," but he's "precisely the kind of" President people say they wanted. He's "done a better job than his detractors allow." The criticisms are "overblown." "Some analysts have suggested... Others say... These criticisms have some truth... It is tempting to dismiss criticism from right-wing Republicans... It was disquieting to hear... But there is also powerful criticism from Democrats, liberals and centrists... His critics are inconsistent... people on the left and the right... find him unfocused, weak and passive.... the perception — of weakness, dithering, inaction...."

Everything is put in terms of what other people think. What other people think is apparently not exactly right, but how wrong is it?
Taken as a whole and stripped as much as possible of ideological blinkers, Mr. Obama’s record on foreign policy is not as bad as his critics say. It’s just not good enough.
Given how annoying it was to read this editorial — and I finally did  — I wanted to get a blog post out of it to give you something short and useful. What feels useful to me is: 1. Notice the extremity of the NYT editors' resistance to owning any criticism of this President, 2. The NYT editors must have some serious criticism they really do want to set down in print, even if they don't want readers to find it in the text, and 3. Perhaps the editors know that they have left themselves open to criticism, as they allow 8 years to pass without any serious criticism of a President.

There, now... did I find any quarters?

45 comments:

Oso Negro said...

Meh. The New York Times. 3rd largest newspaper by circulation in the United States, 39th in the world. Relentless shills for the Democratic Party, leading propaganda organ of big state progressivism. Home of Walter Duranty, front man for Stalin, whose crooked reporting on the Holodomor of the early 1930s was not retracted for more than 50 years. These people make a tepid comment on the disaster of Obama. Startling.

MayBee said...

Good observations about the NYT!

"Exactly the kind of president people said they wanted" is especially precious. People are forever thinking they want one kind of thing, but when it isn't as good as they thought it'd be, they want something else.

How many people cheat on a spouse or even divorce after 6 years, even though they'd married exactly the kind of person they'd said they wanted?

FleetUSA said...

The NYT is loath to ever criticize this Manchurian president they foisted on us. Hence all the comfy cushion language.

If it were any other (especially Republican) president their knives would be dripping in blood.

tim maguire said...

His critics are inconsistent

This is one of the most frustrating ideas I come across in political discourse. It's a really nasty tactic--take a bunch of individuals voicing individual opinions individually, and pretend they are a coordinated group. Then hold all of them responsible for anything any one of them says and criticize the bunch for being inconsistent or hypocritical.

Mark said...

By 2020 the mainstream press will be referring to Obama as our first President from Occidental College.

Fen said...

"He rejected the shoot-first tendencies of George W. Bush, who pretended to have all the answers, bungled two wars and asserted an in-your-face American exceptionalism that included bullying allies. We know where that got us."



Not a word about how Obama screwed up Iraq and bungled AfPak. But they can still blame Bush 8+ years later.

What a bunch of hacks.

Henry said...

This is the kind of article you can shake upside down for Freudian slips, but it's hardly worth the trouble.

Okay, one example:

Mr. Obama is precisely the kind of foreign policy president most Americans and their allies overseas wanted

Odd use of the word "their" there. Not "our" allies. "Their" allies. Talk about distancing themselves! These guys won't even own their own projections.

Robert Cook said...

Obama can't be criticized for being an ineffective fascist!

Ipso Fatso said...

Barack Obama wakes up every day knowing two things: The sun rises in the east and that the MSM, Hollywood and Academia will all have his back-no matter what. This NYT's editorial is not a serious attempt at criticism of our beloved President. That will never happen.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

tim maguire said...

This is one of the most frustrating ideas I come across in political discourse...

Well said. I think we would have a better informed voting public if high schools taught a course on how to spot the various techniques of dishonest discourse.

Matthew Sablan said...

It isn't good enough per the expectations laid out by the President. If I hire someone, and they don't live up to their stated ability, then yes: They've failed.

Under promise, over deliver. Salesman 101.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...


They are, perhaps unintentionally, once again making (to me) a rather obvious point.

In today's climate, it is very dangerous, in fact, crazy, to elect a Black Liberal.

Why so?

Well, once in power, they will be shielded from criticism, and thus unable to learn from mistakes.

Unable to learn from mistakes, they will keep doing the same mistaken things, hoping for different results.

And we all know the word we use for "doing the same thing, hoping for different results". It's crazy.

Illuninati said...

My take is that it's morning in the entire world now. As the sun (Obama)rises there is still some fog which resists the sun but it will soon burn off.

MayBee said...

From the link:
"Mr. Obama positioned himself as a transformational leader, but in foreign affairs, as in domestic policy, he overestimated the degree to which the mere fact of his election could achieve that transformation"

Consider the vastness of the ego in the man who thinks this of himself.

Ann Althouse said...

"This is one of the most frustrating ideas I come across in political discourse. It's a really nasty tactic--take a bunch of individuals voicing individual opinions individually, and pretend they are a coordinated group. Then hold all of them responsible for anything any one of them says and criticize the bunch for being inconsistent or hypocritical."

Are you also frustrated by the extremely common expression "Damned if you do, damned if you don't"?

People are always going to deploy this idea, which is one of the most basic tools in getting along in this world (if you are going to try to do anything).

Matthew Sablan said...

What foreign policy successes has Obama had?

David said...

Grimy pennies.

CWJ said...

Althouse,

Reading the quotes you selected, I'm struck by how bloodless and above it all they are. In style, it's as if President Obama wrote them himself. It sounds like faculty sherry hour on a Friday afternoon, where criticism of one's colleagues is rarely said plainly.

OTOH, Fen's quote shows that they can still write declaratively if the target is Bush. So yeah, the tone they adopted for Obama is deliberate, and the light it shines on the editorial staff posing (weaseling?) isn't pretty.

MayBee said...

"It is tempting to dismiss criticism from right-wing Republicans like Senator Ted Cruz, who knows little about foreign policy;"

Where is the evidence Ted Cruz know less about foreign policy than Obama- especially the Obama who was going to change foreign policy simply by being elected in 2008?

Ridiculous! Remember Joe Biden is our vp because Obama never met with his own foreign policy senate sub committee, and Joe Biden took responsibility as the head of the SFR committee!

Ann Althouse said...

I mean, I do agree with your point about the incoherence of the criticism of the criticism when the critics are treated as if they are of one mind, one inconsistent mind.

Hagar said...

I wonder what is going to crash first; the stock market or "world peace."

The NYT is beginning to get that uneasy feeling that it might be time to distance oneself from The One We have been Waiting For.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Ann Althouse said...

Are you also frustrated by the extremely common expression "Damned if you do, damned if you don't"?

People are always going to deploy this idea, which is one of the most basic tools in getting along in this world (if you are going to try to do anything).


Could you please explain further? I don't see the parallel between his complaint and your common expression, nor how what he complains about is a basic tool for getting along.

The Drill SGT said...

But Mr. Obama has long been fully responsible for his own foreign policy. While he has made mistakes, and can be frustratingly cautious, he has done a better job than his detractors allow, starting with salvaging an economy that is at the core of American power. He has produced the first possibility of a deal on Iran’s nuclear weapons

Good Lord save us if his best foreign policy success is his great Iran deal...

Left Bank of the Charles said...

On one side of the quarter is "not good enough for government work", the reverse Stuart Smalley "not good enough, not smart enough, and not likable enough...

The Old Gray Lady ain't what she used to be.

Robert Cook said...

"I wonder what is going to crash first; the stock market or 'world peace.'"

Does it matter? When it all comes down it all comes down. Apocalypse In Our Lifetime, (if not Now).

rhhardin said...

There's the line in Catch-22, roughly

All of his friends wondered what he was up to.

"I wonder what shithead is up to."

chillblaine said...

Years from now, historians will comment on what will be seen as the new century's most colossal foreign policy disaster: the failure to help the Iranian people complete their green revolution in 2009. Regime change in Iran was there for the taking!

And they keep throwing around the word diplomacy, as if diplomacy only involved talking. (They keep using that word, I'm not sure it means what they think it does).

Now our foreign policy is a series of pointed tweets.

Robert Cook said...

"'He has produced the first possibility of a deal on Iran’s nuclear weapons....'

"Good Lord save us if his best foreign policy success is his great Iran deal..."


So much digital ink and virtual hot air wasted on Iran's mythical nukes!

Ann Althouse said...

"Could you please explain further? I don't see the parallel between his complaint and your common expression, nor how what he complains about is a basic tool for getting along."

The NYT is expressing an idea in a blabby fashion that boils down to that common expression. If you reduce it to plain English (the common expression) it's not as frustrating as if feels in NYT prose.

Reduced to the common expression, it's quite trite. No point in being annoyed by it. Everyone tends to rely — in order to get through life — on the assumption that there will always be critics, no matter what you do, and you can do something or its opposite and people will say you are wrong.

That idea is a basic tool for getting along in this world (unless you get intimidated into attempting nothing).

Balfegor said...

It's kind of bizarre to me that at this point people are still clinging to the image of Obama as blandly even-keeled. One of the problems with his foreign policy is that he engages in a lot of bellicose bluster muttering darkly about "consequences" and "red lines" and blah-blah-blah, but there's absolutely no follow through.

I'm not saying that the no follow through is a bad policy. At this point, I don't think there's much we can do for the Ukraine (and supporting a pack violent ruffians who overthrew the elected government does not seem to me an attractive precedent to set). And in Syria, I don't think the rebels offer any material improvement over the Baathist government. So inaction actually seems pretty sensible.

It's just that the gap between what we actually do and the President's theatrical rhetoric makes us look like utter buffoons.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Ann Althouse said...

The NYT is expressing an idea in a blabby fashion that boils down to that common expression.

I believe what Tim points out goes beyond the recognition that there will always be critics. By grouping the critics into a whole, then claiming that whole is inconsistent, they attempt to delegitimize all the critics, even those who have been shown to be correct.

It's the difference between saying You can't please everyone and saying Anyone who isn't pleased is being irrational.

Eric said...

You have to consider the difficult situation in which the NY Times editors find themselves, trying to maintain their primary allegiance while pivoting to Hillary.

gerry said...

What you concluded in your analysis was totally predictable.

I appreciate your reading it so I do not have to, because you continue to validate my conclusion - derived from NYT editorial content and hiding of inconvenient facts about contemporary liberalism on deeper pages within the fishwrap - that the NYT is still not worth reading.

richard mcenroe said...

Fen -- Obama implemented the most restrictive rules of engagement US troops on the ground have EVER fought under (and has now killed more troops in Afghanistan than Bush did in Iraq) while reserving to his godlike self the right to drone people to death without warning.

Yes, I distinctly remember that being the President I wanted. /sarc

richard mcenroe said...

"...he has done a better job than his detractors allow, starting with salvaging an economy that is at the core of American power."

You mean China's?

Fernandinande said...

There, now... did I find any quarters?

Spare "CHANGE"?

As in "Obama is a terrible president in every way, but we're pretending that he's merely imperfect as if that were a reasonable position".

grackle said...

He's "done a better job than his detractors allow.

Obama is an international laughing stock. Too many screwed up reset buttons, too many one-sided concessions, too much throwing allies under the bus, too many ignored red lines, way too much ass-kissing of Putin for nothing in return, too little leadership here and abroad. All of Europe knows Obama cannot be trusted so of course they will not cooperate with sanctions against Putin or anyone else.

What a mess.

Kirk Parker said...

" Mr. Obama’s record on foreign policy is not as bad as his critics say.
"

Genuine, serious question: is there a single country in the world today, with whom our relationship is better than that was a good day Mr Obama took office?

Britain, Germany, Japan, or Australia? Certainty not. India or Pakistan? GMAB. Russia? Nyet!

Who, then?

tim maguire said...

Thanks, Ignorance Is Bliss. You have a better handle on my point than the professor.

My complaint is about using a cheap trick to hold people responsible for things they didn't say, for views they never claimed to hold. It has nothing at all to do with legitimate criticism and serves exclusively to derail rather than advance discussion.

The relevance of "damned if you do, damned if you don't" is a mystery to me.

Henry said...

"...he has done a better job than his detractors allow, starting with salvaging an economy that is at the core of American power."

richard mcenroe replied: You mean China's?

Touche. But now his magic touch is failing China as well.

It's statements like the above that make me want a control group universe. In alterverse, no president was elected and no congress did anything. And the economy salvaged itself.

RecChief said...

"who pretended to have all the answers"

When did GW Bush ever pretend that? talk about projection!

Ann Althouse said...

"I believe what Tim points out goes beyond the recognition that there will always be critics. By grouping the critics into a whole, then claiming that whole is inconsistent, they attempt to delegitimize all the critics, even those who have been shown to be correct."

Perhaps you missed my second comment, which acknowledged that.

I break Tim's point into two points, one of which is the common psychological device.

The other is the one incoherent mind image which characterizes the criticism in a way that I'm sure the NYT would dispute. When we say commonly people will criticize you no matter what you do, are we susceptible to that characterization?

If not, why not?

Richard Dolan said...

The NYTimes, in its winsome way, is just trying to tell its audience what they want to hear --muted criticism of Obama, in whom so many of them are deeply disappointed for being such a weak leader, while also bashing O's less muted critics who are rooting with various degrees of enthusiasm for the other team.

The Sunday NYT carried a piece by Greg Mankiw, that addresses the perennially interesting topic of media bias. (Mankiw is chairman of the Harvard economics dept, and is affiliated mostly with Republicans; his article is linked on his blog.) He described a study conducted by two U Chi economists into political slant in the news columns of some 400 regional papers (the NYT and WSJ as national papes were not part of the study). Their conclusion was that bias was not a matter of using a newspaper to advance the politics of a newspaper's owners, or its editor's own political slant, but instead just the market working its magic:

"The bottom line is simple: Media owners generally do not try to mold the population to their own brand of politics. Instead, like other business owners, they maximize profit by giving customers what they want.

"These findings speak well of the marketplace. In the market for news, as in most other markets, Adam Smith’s invisible hand leads producers to cater to consumers. But the findings also raise a more troubling question about the media’s role as a democratic institution. How likely is it that we as citizens will change our minds, or reach compromise with those who have differing views, if all of us are getting our news from sources that reinforce the opinions we start with?"

Clyde said...

He's good enough, he's smart enough, and doggone it, ignorant people like him.

gk1 said...

Having spent the better part of 6 year portraying anyone critical of the president as dog whistling, racist, goons, the NYT has kind of painted itself in the corner, have they not?