Different newspapers can get away with different things depending on where they are and who their audience is.
When you are in Washington D.C. some of the smartest people in the world are going to read your column. It is important to not say things that are so flamboyantly incorrect that many thousands of readers will wince. It is no different when I was a radio host on AM 1580. I know that Notre Dame Law School is right here. Some of the finest law professors in the world, such as Charlie Rice, are likely in my audience. So I had to be sure that when I spoke on the law that I had it as correct as possible. Here in South Bend there is likely someone in the audience who is a better expert on any given subject than the host, but in Washington D.C. if you try to pull one over on the audience in the fields of basic political history or basic communications strategy the result is ridicule and laughter by a great many.
I know it seems like we have been picking on The Washington Post lately, but only because they have made themselves an easy target.
The Washington Post Columnist Richard Cohen engages in spin for the president. In Washington almost everyone spins some and that is to be expected. The trick is to not get laughed at when you go too far.
The insane policy would be to ignore the signal lesson of the Great Depression — when Franklin Roosevelt, listening to the John Boehners of his day, cut spending to reduce the deficit. The Depression deepened.
Amazing, this is exactly the opposite of historical reality. Cohen apparently never heard of the “New Deal” where government spending went off the charts. Government spending, over regulation, and redistribution don’t work well and even FDR’s own Treasury Secretary finally said so. Non farm unemployment never dropped below 20% during the “New Deal”. The United States did not enjoy full employment in a non-war economy until 1947 when government spending dropped by two third’s.
Henry Morganthau, Roosevelt’s Treasury Secretary from 1934-1945 , wrote in a letter to Congressional Democrats May 1939:
“We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and if I am wrong … somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises … I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started … And an enormous debt to boot!”*
* Burton Folsom, Jr., New Deal or Raw Deal? (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008), p. 2.
As with the business community, Obama’s assurances to the pro-Israel community mean little. His precise words are discounted. As with the business community, rumor or anecdote trumps pronouncements …
Ah yes, the old “precise words” defense. This is the oldest political trick in the book. Always include a word or a phrase that acts as an escape hatch so that, if needed, said politician can flip to the other side of the political issue in case backtracking becomes a political necessity. [Editor's Note: always look for the escape hatch phrase in any political speech]
In the case of Obama’s controversial recent Israeli policy speech the escape hatch phrase was “1967 borders with mutually agreed swaps”. That sounds so good doesn’t it? Tell me, how can Israel give up any land West of the large valley between Israel and Jordan, or the Golan Heights etc ? [Note: If you are not aware of the details of the critical geography mentioned see the video HERE] To do so would leave Israel with borders that are structurally indefensible. It has only been by the bravery of the Israeli people and the overwhelming technical superiority of American military hardware that has prevented a second holocaust.
With the escape hatch phrase Obama can say “I wanted borders based on the 1967 lines” which had resulted in an invasion, while at the same time saying “I said that we cannot just go back to the 1967 borders”. There are few politicians who speak that do not include these escape hatch phrases.
Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu made use of Obama’s escape hatch phrase and wiped his feet on it saying “President Obama says that we cannot go back to the 1967 borders”. Of course the Prime Minister knows full well this was not Obama’s intent, but graciously gave him an out.
Gov. Christie of New Jersey does not use escape hatch language and even made a speech against the use of it: