Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Posted at 12:05 PM ET, 02/ 7/2011

VandeHarris give away the game

By Greg Sargent

Politico top dogs John Harris and Jim VandeHei have an important piece today arguing that President Obama has effectively played the Washington press corps "like a fiddle" with all his gestures designed to persuade them that he's moved to the "center." But the piece isn't important for what it says about Obama's alleged hoodwinking of Harris's and VandeHei's colleagues. It's important for what it says about the Beltway press corps.

Specifically, Harris and VandeHei effectively endorse two of the left's primary critiques of the permanent Beltway political and media establishment -- critiques that liberals have been lobbing at that establishment for literally years now. Harris and VandeHei explain Obama's rebound thusly:

He is doing it by exploiting some of the most long-standing traits among reporters who cover politics and government -- their favoritism for politicians perceived as ideologically centrist and willing to profess devotion to Washington's oft-honored, rarely practiced civic religion of bipartisanship...

The majority of political writers we know might more accurately be accused of centrist bias...Obama is taking advantage of the press's bias for bipartisan process, a preference that often transcends the substance of any bipartisan policy...

Reagan may have shown that deficits don't matter, as Dick Cheney supposedly said, but the media focus on deficits as the litmus test for all serious politicians goes on. Reporters love hearing Obama talk with a furrowed brow about the grave threat of a $14 trillion pile of debt.

The claims that Washington's political and media establishment fetishizes bipartisanship regardless of policy details, and that this establishment is all too willing to confer the label of Very Serious Beltway Wise Man on those who profess outsized concern about the deficit, have long been twin pillars of the left's critique of our political discourse.

Indeed, what Harris and VandeHei are really hinting at here, without quite saying it, is that all the talk about Obama moving to the ideological "center" is a bunch of hogwash. Obama himself told Bill O'Reilly yesterday that he isn't shifting to the center, and David Axelrod has adamantly denied any "grand positioning," but too many pundits continue to assert as fact that Obama has moved to the center, without even defining what that means.

My own personal take is that Obama, rather than moving to the center, is effectively redefining it as a place that's in line with his longstanding approach -- as a place where gestures towards fiscal discipline such as the spending and pay freeze can comfortably coexist with increased government spending on our future. What Obama is attempting is far more subtle than many commentators are willing to acknowledge. I'm sure that Harris, who wrote a very careful book about Bill Clinton that didn't rely on overly simplistic bromides about his "repositioning," and understands the compexity of the forces motivating presidents, could explain this better than I could.

It's good to hear figures like Harris and VandeHei, who carry tremendous respect with the Beltway establishment, acknowledging some of our discourse's most outsized flaws, though I doubt anyone will hear what they're saying or act on it.

By Greg Sargent  | February 7, 2011; 12:05 PM ET
 
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Palin says nothing in particular about Egypt, still gets headlines
Next: House GOPer: Leadership had to talk me into voting for repeal

Comments

[Greg's "personal take is that Obama, rather than moving to the center, is effectively redefining it as a place that's in line with his longstanding approach"]

How's that "redefining" campaign working out for The Obamateur?

58% Continue to Support FULL REPEAL of PelosiCare
http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/healthcare/health_care_law

"The majority of voters still support repeal of the new national health care law and remain convinced that it will drive up the cost and hurt the quality of health care in the country.

"A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 58% of Likely U.S. Voters at least somewhat favor repeal of the health care law, with 44% who Strongly Favor it. Thirty-seven percent (37%) are opposed to repeal, including 26% who Strongly Oppose."

*VOID*

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | February 7, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

But those two are part of the problem. Always have been, even at their previous places of employment(yeah .. I know one of them used to be employed by the same crew who employ Greg).

Posted by: PhilPerspective | February 7, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

"President Obama has effectively played the Washington press corps "like a fiddle" with all his gestures designed to persuade them that he's moved to the "center." "

Is this from The Onion?

"Obama himself told Bill O'Reilly yesterday that he isn't shifting to the center, and David Axelrod has adamantly denied any "grand positioning,""

Well, that cinches it. It's not happening b/c Obama and his flak say it isn't.

"What Obama is attempting is far more subtle than many commentators are willing to acknowledge"

Yet far less subtle than his zealous partisan defenders imagine. In fact, the last alleged Democratic president did it all with far more subtlety and far less hypocrisy.

Sorry, Bro. Face reality. Obama is a Moderate Republican.

Posted by: wbgonne | February 7, 2011 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Kaddafi's continued reliance on one Rasmussen poll that's contradicted by a half dozen major national polls by reputable news orgs tells you all you need to know about his interest in an honest dialogue.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | February 7, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Cheney "supposedly" said deficits don't matter? SUPPOSEDLY said? WTF? That is some BS. No, he ACTUALLY said that line. And these two are folks other journalists look up to ? No wonder journalism is screwed.....

Posted by: calchala | February 7, 2011 12:23 PM | Report abuse

"My own personal take is that Obama, rather than moving to the center, is effectively redefining it as a place that's in line with his longstanding approach -- "

Back in December, "redefining the center" looked more like capitulation to the Republicans, at least according to the Plum Line:

12/6/2010
How Dems can still eke out a bitter but significant victory

"It looks as though the parties are close to deal on the extension of all of the Bush tax cuts for two years in exchange for an extension of unemployment benefits. This is a tremendous capitulation for Democrats and a huge win for Republicans"

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/12/the_best_possible_deal.html

12/9/2010
House Democrats' last stand

"House Dems are refusing to support the tax cut deal in its current form and holding out for changes to some of its most onerous elements, most prominently the estate tax provision. Yet all indications are that it's going to pass anyway, with overwhelming Republican support, and it seems to be moving forward in the Senate."

"For many House Dems, seeing Obama make this deal was the ultimate sell-out. Their effort to block it, or at least change it, is their last stand in the majority, and they're determined to make something of it. And yet the truth is that whatever does pass in the end is likely to be unacceptable to many of them, too."

12/17/2010
Will GOP spending cuts kill Obama's reelection chances?

"Yesterday, Republicans defeated a massive omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government, arguing that the earmarks stuffed into the bill, among other things, constituted too much spending"

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/12/why_the_earmark_fight_mattered.html

You and Politico are correct in your critique of how the Washington press corps looks at things, but Obama's "moves to the center" haven't been about redefining it. They have been about caving on core campaign promises in favor of adopting Republican positions. The most prominent being the full extension of the Bush tax cuts and the continuation of the core Bush Administration approaches to counter-terrorism as they existed at the end of Bush's second term. Add to that restaffing the White House with several members of Bill Clinton's administration and the changes seem pretty substantial compared to what candidate Obama promised in 2008.

The other observation about the Politico piece is that it validates Mitch McConnell's observation on political messaging:

"“We worked very hard to keep our fingerprints off of these proposals,” McConnell says. “Because we thought—correctly, I think—that the only way the American people would know that a great debate was going on was if the measures were not bipartisan. When you hang the ‘bipartisan’ tag on something, the perception is that differences have been worked out, and there’s a broad agreement that that’s the way forward.”"

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/print/2011/01/strict-obstructionist/8344/

Posted by: jnc4p | February 7, 2011 12:32 PM | Report abuse

In 2004, according to the Weekly Standard, not only did Dick Cheney say "deficits don't matter", but they tell us how wise he was to say it:

WHEN DICK CHENEY SAID, "Deficits don't matter," economists took that as proof of the economic illiteracy of the Bush administration. But it turns out there is a case to be made that Cheney was onto something.

...

Which brings us to the economic level. The deficits that Bush ran up in the years in which the country was teetering on the verge of a serious recession had the beneficial effect of righting the economy. In that sense, deficits not only didn't matter, but were a force for economic good.

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/245esggv.asp
-------------------------------------------------
Can you imagine that--the Weekly Standard trumpeting how deficits had a beneficial effect of righting the economy.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | February 7, 2011 12:33 PM | Report abuse

jnc4p writes:

Obama's "moves to the center" haven't been about redefining it. They have been about caving on core campaign promises in favor of adopting Republican positions.

I think that's a fair point to some degree. But I would argue that Obama has always governed from the center left, adopting a mix of mainstream liberal and republican positions. he's always said he is willing to make concessions to find common ground with Republicans. The only difference between his approach on HCR and on the Bush tax cuts is that Republicans took him up on his offer.

This center-left approach is what he's redefining as "centrist."

Posted by: Greg Sargent | February 7, 2011 12:36 PM | Report abuse

"Obama... is effectively redefining [the center]... as a place where gestures towards fiscal discipline... can comfortably coexist with increased government spending."

Well then! That's certainly something to be proud of. Cynics now occupy the center. Yay!

Posted by: sbj3 | February 7, 2011 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Greg:

Please stop before I go back and quote the 4,000 times you said that it would be CAPITULATION -- no less -- if Obama extended the Bush tax cuts for the Rich. In fact, I think you said that all the way up until Obama signaled it was going to happen: then it miraculously became "principled compromise."

"This center-left approach is what he's redefining as "centrist.""

And he's doing it by moving ever further to the Right. He's just too clever for me to keep up.

Now let's see the Budget.

Posted by: wbgonne | February 7, 2011 12:44 PM | Report abuse

And 122barblues makes the first entry in today's bie lie calisthenics: the deficit is Bush's fault.

I understand the dynamics behind this need to repeat this big lie ad nauseum:
(1) Blaming Bush is just what liberals do. They cannot help themselves. If NASA reported that an asteroid was going to take out the planet, the left would blame Bush.
(2) Blaming Bush this time avoids placing responsibility where it belongs: Congress.
(3) Blaming Bush allows the left to give credit for the budget performance under Clinton to Clinton, instead of to whom it belongs: the Republicans in Congress.
(4) Blaming Bush now is a way of distracting attention away from the spending done by the Democrats when they ascended to the Majority in 06.

It is just a lie. And their hope is that if they repeat it often enough others will become as convinced as they are. You see the first person that has to be conned in any con job is the con artist. 12barblues BELIEVES this lie. How sad for her.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | February 7, 2011 12:44 PM | Report abuse

wbgonne, I think you're misremembering. I said it would be "capitulation" if all they did was "temporarily" extend both the high end and middle class tax cuts. I said that would be agreeing to do it the GOP's way for now.

I never said it was capitulation for Obama to agree to the high end extension in exchange for an extension of UI benefits and the other things he got.

Posted by: sargegreg | February 7, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

[Greg whined: "one Rasmussen poll that's contradicted by a half dozen major national polls by reputable news orgs"]

pffl... Greg refuses to cite these polls, in fear that scrutiny might refute their (alleged) "repute".

Take the AssPress poll, which shows that 40 percent of adults support Obamacare and 41 percent oppose it. In November, the last time the AP polled this question, 38 percent supported Obamacare and 47 percent opposed it. But the sample in November was very different: 38 percent Republican and 39 percent Democrat. The sample in January wasn’t so balanced, with 42 percent of the responders Democrat and 36 percent Republican.

*See also, "Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News"

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | February 7, 2011 12:52 PM | Report abuse

The Marist poll finds that 35 percent of registered voters would like Obamacare changed so that it could do more, 13 percent would like it to do less, and 30 percent would prefer the law be fully repealed.

But again, the numbers aren’t equal: 35 percent of those polled were Democrat, and 28 percent Republican.

*bias*

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | February 7, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

@sargegreg "wbgonne, I think you're misremembering. I said it would be "capitulation" if all they did was "temporarily" extend both the high end and middle class tax cuts. I said that would be agreeing to do it the GOP's way for now.

I never said it was capitulation for Obama to agree to the high end extension in exchange for an extension of UI benefits and the other things he got."

Greg, I think you are the one misremembering:

12/6/2010
How Dems can still eke out a bitter but significant victory

"It looks as though the parties are close to deal on the extension of all of the Bush tax cuts for two years in exchange for an extension of unemployment benefits. This is a tremendous capitulation for Democrats and a huge win for Republicans"

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/12/the_best_possible_deal.html

Posted by: jnc4p | February 7, 2011 1:00 PM | Report abuse

"wbgonne, I think you're misremembering. I said it would be "capitulation" if all they did was "temporarily" extend both the high end and middle class tax cuts. I said that would be agreeing to do it the GOP's way for now. I never said it was capitulation for Obama to agree to the high end extension in exchange for an extension of UI benefits and the other things he got."

Please don't insult my intelligence, Greg. Do you really want me to dredge up all the posts? I'd much rather move on but it is exceedingly difficult b/c you appear to have become a WH cheerleader. It all began with the Tax Capitulation and now it's this silliness that Obama that moving the Center to the Left by moving to the Right. I'm sorry, but that's how I see it.

Posted by: wbgonne | February 7, 2011 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Actually Greg, I believe I am quoting an Adam Serwer post here:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/12/the_best_possible_deal.html

Sorry about that. It's hard to keep you guys separate sometimes.

Speaking of which, when does Adam get a tag on the Plum Line header? At this point, it really ought to be:

The Plum Line
by Greg Sargent and Adam Serwer

Posted by: jnc4p | February 7, 2011 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Greg, what's your cut for serving up the WH talking points dreck?

Posted by: Papagnello | February 7, 2011 1:09 PM | Report abuse

So now the press is calling Obama a liar? It's just not journolist spreading the deceptions?

_________________


Apparently some people on this blog believe that their offenses have been so great that they are going to be banned once the new softward comes in.

Among those: 12BarBluesAgain, who brought Cao to this blog, knowing full well what he would be like. She did this with a destructive intent, and she has admitted as such.

So, thinking she is smart, has created a new name for herself and is attempting to hide when the new software comes in.

Nice try, but we ALL see you in the open.


_________________________


Part of the problem here is the moderation policies are not spelled out - guidance has to be given.

There needs to be an "active warning system" to guide people when they have crossed the line. People don't get warnings, or even comments back stating clearly they have crossed the line.

The result has been that all the bad behavior has become the de facto guidance as to what is acceptable and what is not.

Also, moderation policy can not be influenced by political beliefs. There simply can not be the impression that liberals or conservatives are getting away with things that are enforced against the other side.


GUIDANCE - one easy way to do the "active warning system" would be to require all posters to stick to the issues - and avoid making personal nasty comments. These personal attacks have flared up recently. For me, I try to state my my opinions and CUT through the personal "ad hominem" attacks. People complain about that - however that is how I have dealt with the insanity here.


___________________________


If there are to be rules

1) The rules must be clearly defined

2) If the liberals break the rules, they get punished too.


3) You can't enforce rules ONLY against people whose views you don't like - that starts nasty lawsuits and ends careers.


Clearly

GUIDANCE - one easy way to do the "active warning system" would be to require all posters to stick to the issues - and avoid making personal nasty comments. These personal attacks have flared up recently. For me, I try to state my my opinions and CUT through the personal "ad hominem" attacks. People complain about that - however that is how I have dealt with the insanity here.

WASHINGTON POST - really should do something about the Obama paid trolls. There should be some contact made between the paper and Axelrod as to the ground rules BECAUSE if the Obama paid trolls start to harass people again like they did in 2008 and 2009, there will be a response.


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | February 7, 2011 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Greg writes - (apparently with a straight face)

"rather than moving to the center, is effectively redefining it"

____________________


So, I'm going to go to Europe.


However, I am "redefining" Europe to include my backyard.


Saves on airfare, hotel and restaurants.


____________________

Are people like Greg "ENABLING" Obama to LIE ?

If people in the media like Greg back up the deceptions and lies, where are we with our democracy ???

WHAT IS GOVERNMENT WHEN WORDS HAVE NO MEANING ?


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | February 7, 2011 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Greg writes:

"a place where gestures towards fiscal discipline such as the spending and pay freeze can comfortably coexist with increased government spending on our future."

_______________

It's called CANDYLAND, a mythical place where no one ever gets a bill or pays any taxes.


You can have whatever you want, and never have to PAY FOR ANYTHING


CANDYLAND - AND YOU NEVER HAVE TO BORROW MONEY FROM THE CHINESE TO PAY FOR STUPID LIBERAL BLOATED GOVERNMENT.


Greg, maybe you should move to this place.


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | February 7, 2011 1:37 PM | Report abuse

I think when Cheney said deficits don't matter, he meant it in a political sense. The quote is "Reagan proved deficits don't matter." in reference to the fact that Reagan ran up huge deficits and still won reelection along with GHWB's succession. And the same thing happened with GWB and his deficits. It wasn't a testament to economic illiteracy, but a testament to political literacy.

Posted by: DDAWD | February 7, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

DDawd--A good point. It's always nice when somebody notices context for a quote.

Posted by: AllButCertain | February 7, 2011 1:57 PM | Report abuse

NOT correct, not in a political sense.

Cheney meant it in the sense that Reagan policies brought prosperity despite running up unprecedented deficits.

And if you were among the pop. segment Cheney cares about, it was prosperity indeed.

smd

'''''''''''''
I think when Cheney said deficits don't matter, he meant it in a political sense. The quote is "Reagan proved deficits don't matter." in reference to the fact that Reagan ran up huge deficits and still won reelection along with GHWB's succession. And the same thing happened with GWB and his deficits. It wasn't a testament to economic illiteracy, but a testament to political literacy.

Posted by: smd1234 | February 7, 2011 2:07 PM | Report abuse

@calchala

"Cheney "supposedly" said deficits don't matter? SUPPOSEDLY said? WTF? That is some BS. No, he ACTUALLY said that line. And these two are folks other journalists look up to ? No wonder journalism is screwed....."

Do any of you people have a freakin clue about what represents journalistic credibility. When an item is unsourced, a reporter might use a term like "supposedly" not my favorite word..perhaps "allegedly"..if borrowing from another reporter's work.."is reported to have said by (fill in the blank".

IT'S CALLED SOURCING...ATTRIBUTION...
You either have it or you don't. When you don't the HONEST journalist makes it clear.

On the other hand calchala in your critique you didn't provide ONE SCINTILLA of evidence that Cheney ACTUALLY said "deficits don't matter" All you had to do is provide a link...some source to back your claim of "actuality."

If you had, as any decent journalist would have done, we could have checked your source, made a determination as to it's accuracy and then made a further judgment as to whether Greg has simply overlooked that source or whether he was deliberately ignoring it.

Geez some of you people are amazing. It's like you wish people to play by rules that don't exist, except perhaps in your imaginations.

Here's an old cliche to think about before firing off such a broadside at the blog host...Don't shoot the messenger because they bring news you disagree with.
Perhaps better still from the hood..
"Hate the game not the playa". And before hating the game make sure you understand the rules!

Posted by: rukidding7 | February 7, 2011 2:55 PM | Report abuse

The comments are even more troll hijacked than usual (answering the trolls is a waste of effort). Harris once seemed perceptive, but became a total Beltway troll during the Gingrich "revolution" and esp. once Monicagate got going. van der Hei has always been a tool. That Obama seems to know how to use their shamelessly obvious narrative must really bug them apparently offends their need to feel morally superior to him. OTOH, when they went to work for the Bushy who launched Politico, Harris issued a statement filled with pop business cliches (it boiled down to "I want to make more money").It took a few years for the media to realize that they'd been easy on Bush, but it didn't stop them from continuing to do the same.

Posted by: thebuckguy | February 7, 2011 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company