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New YorK Times Crashed-and-Burned-and-Smoking Watch (Helene Cooper Edition)


Obsidian Wings: Helene Cooper Needs To Discover Google, Lexis: So let's say I'm Helene Cooper of the NYT.  And let's say I have a great idea for an article -- the premise is that Obama knocks down pretend strawmen in his speeches just like Bush used to do (e.g., "Some have said..."). It would be a good idea for an article -- if it were true.  But it's not, as about 15 minutes of Google and Lexis would show.  But Cooper went ahead and wrote it anyway.

The difference between Bush and Obama's arguments is fairly simple -- Bush just made stuff up, while Obama's critics are actually making the critiques that Obama attributes to them.  Somewhat hilariously, Cooper herself concedes this....  She notes, for instance, that the criticisms Obama cites were made by real, living, breathing, non-straw-filled people like John Kyl, Anne Applebaum, Bill Kristol, and Jeffrey Kuhner....

Exhibit A of Cooper's article is that Obama is supposedly pretending that critics are saying he's bitten off more than he can chew.  This is most prominent "strawman" that Cooper presents:

“There are those who say these plans are too ambitious, that we should be trying to do less, not more,” Mr. Obama told a town-hall-style meeting in Costa Mesa, Calif., on March 18. “Well, I say our challenges are too large to ignore.” Mr. Obama did not specify who, exactly, was saying America should ignore its challenges.

A couple of problems here.  First, Obama didn't claim his critics were saying "ignore challenges."  He claimed they criticized the way he approached challenges by trying to do too much. But more to the point, Obama has been routinely criticized for trying to do too much.  It's a common refrain, and it was particularly common around mid-March when he was making the comments Cooper cites.  Here's a short sample: David Broder, 3/15/09.... David Brooks, 2/23/09.... Matt Lauer, 3/11/09.... Martin Bashir, 3/11/09.... John King, 3/15/09.... I could probably have come up with another two dozen examples, but you get the point.  The main strawman in her article turns out to be one of the most common and fundamental critiques of Obama in mid-March. Moving on -- Cooper also claims that Obama cited strawman critiques of his March appearance on Leno:

Mr. Obama continued on the offensive against straw men that day in Los Angeles, pointing out that critics told him not to go on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" on NBC because “I can’t handle that and the economy at the same time.”

Hilariously, Cooper then points out that John Kyl (in the Senate Republican leadership) made this precise critique.  She tries to spin her way out of that....

Google and Lexis are valuable tools -- they should be used...