Power Line blog outshines dailies on Obama speech

President Obama’s crucial speech to a joint session of Congress on health insurance reform leads today’s news, of course. Stock coverage is the name of the game in the two local dailies. An AP story in the Strib notes that “A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. snap poll of people interviewed before and after Wednesday night’s speech indicated that the president shifted public opinion in his favor. After the speech, two-thirds said they supported Obama’s health care proposals, compared with 53 percent in a survey days before the president spoke.”

The PiPress cobbles together reporting from the New York Times, McClatchy and the AP. It notes that many of the basics have been well known, but that “Obama did embrace some fresh proposals. He announced an initiative to create pilot projects aimed at curbing medical malpractice lawsuits — a cause that is important to physicians and Republicans. He adopted an idea put forth by Sen. John McCain, his GOP rival in the 2008 presidential race, for high-risk insurance pools to cover those with pre-existing conditions.”

Neither local paper offers editorial or columnizing on the speech, but the Internet is awash in reaction. In The Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan writes, “A masterful speech, somehow a blend of governance and also campaigning. He has Clinton’s mastery of policy detail with Bush’s under-rated ability to give a great speech. But above all, it is a reprise of the core reason for his candidacy and presidency: to get past the abstractions of ideology and the easy scorn of the cable circus and the cynicism that has thereby infected this country’s ability to tackle pressing problems.”

TIME magazine’s Karen Tumulty blogs, “The White House promised more detail tonight, and in that sense, the speech delivered — if only to make more explicit many of the things that Obama has only tacitly dealt with before. But it was a move that was badly needed at this moment. Within the House Chamber, he has provided the guidance that lawmakers have been begging for. But the real question is this: Has Obama provided the reassurance it will take to bring back the rest of the country?”

E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post notes: “[F]or all of the details, the most striking aspect of the address may have been its call to battle: The days of taking incoming fire without any return volleys are over.” Several mainstream news observers remark that last night was the first time they heard a president use the word “lie” in reference to his political opposition in a speech to a joint session. But what else do you call charges of “death panels”
and “free insurance for illegal immigrants”? Misstatements?

Speaking of volleys, consider Republican Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who yelled, “You lie,” at Obama when the president reassured his audience that illegal immigrants would not be covered under his insurance reform plan. He was not only swatted down by John McCain and almost immediately issued an apology but, according to ABC News, immediately enriched his Democratic opponent in next year’s campaign. George Stephanopoulos writes, “[O]vernight Wilson’s opponent, former Marine Joe Miller, received 3,000 individual contributions totaling about $100,000.”

On the Power Line blog, John Hinderaker does what neither paper dares … dissect the speech for his audience and take a stand on it. He complains about Obama’s charge that “bickering” must end, saying, “Debating public policy issues is not ‘bickering.’ Disagreeing with a proposal to radically change one of the largest sectors of our economy is not a ‘game.’ This kind of gratuitous insult — something we never heard from President Bush, for example — is one of the reasons why many consider Obama to be mean-spirited.” The whole post is worth a read, although Hinderaker neglects to make mention of the official Republican counter-proposal on insurance reform or all the health reform legislation offered during the Bush era. Oh, wait …

Also, on the Joe “You Lie!” Wilson incident, Hinderaker’s colleague Scott Johnson posts an excerpt from a commenter asserting that “[Obama’s] speech must be condemned on the same grounds as Wilson’s outburst. Before Wilson’s outburst, Obama — delivering prepared remarks — had already accused his opponents of lying–not by name, to be sure, but as “prominent politicians.” And in doing so, he explicitly attributed malicious motives to them.” The commenter adds, “It would be interesting to know whether any president before now has ever done this in a formal address to congress. And it would be interesting to speculate on what the formal penalty should be for doing so. A prime minister must in a parliamentary democracy avoid unparliamentary language, as must any other member of parliament. What should happen when the speaker is the president, appearing as invited guest?” In an ideal world, the mainstream press would ferret out the facts to the matter and publish a report making unconditionally clear who is speaking truthfully and who is, well, “lying.”

The Strib launched an (unscientific) poll asking readers their attitudes toward Obama’s health insurance reform plan. At dawn today 52 percent were unequivocally in favor with 38 percent opposed.

The Strib may not have anything to say on last night’s rather significant speech, but it does go out on a limb with an “opinion” piece congratulating us all on another successful State Fair.

He may have lost to Al Franken, but little by little Norm Coleman’s legal miseries are ebbing away. The Federal Election Commission has cleared his office of any improprieties regarding using campaign funds to defend himself in that twisty business involving his pal Nasser Kazeminy down in Texas. The Strib’s Rachel Stassen-Berger files a brief story on the ruling. She reminds readers, “Coleman told the commission at the time that he had not spent any campaign funds in his defense and later asked the FEC for permission to pay any legal fees related to the lawsuits concerning his campaign donations.”

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/10/2009 - 10:36 am.

    Let’s see… when someone states a provable falsehood (tells a lie about health care reform paying for immigrant health care in cases not already being paid, for instance) no matter how earnestly they want and believe that falsehood to be true (despite facts being to the contrary), THEY ARE LYING!

    Clinging to and endlessly repeating a proven falsehood is morally indefensible. It is reprehensible. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (and aren’t these the same people that want the Ten Commandments plastered all over the place).

    If someone accuses that person of lying, the accuser is telling the truth… they are telling the truth ABOUT THE LIE! This is the morally defensible position.

    It is wrong to tell lies. It is wrong to tell lies about your lies. It is NOT wrong to call those who are lying, “liars,” based on the lies they tell.

    Our conservative friends need to remember that, although they are entitled to their own opinions, they are NOT entitled to label those opinions as “facts” then accuse anyone who disagrees with them, by pointing out the verifiable truth, of lying. In doing so, it is the accuser who is lying about their own lies.

  2. Submitted by Bruce Adomeit on 09/10/2009 - 12:48 pm.

    Brian, you say that “Neither local paper offers editorial or columnizing on the speech…” I guess your quick scan of the Strib skipped right over E.J. Dionne’s op-ed piece analyzing Obama’s address — and the separate item below Dionne’s column quoting reactions from the Political Animal, Daily Dish and RedState websites.

  3. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/10/2009 - 01:31 pm.

    The headline article on the Fox News site: “Rep. Joe Wilson apologizes after shouting at Obama as he talked about insuring illegals.”

    Somehow, they managed to work the implication that Obama is going to insure illegals into a headline about Wilson’s apology. Fox never fails to amaze.

    Regarding the actual speech, how many Americans do you think actually watched it? After watching the speech, I thought it was a strong effort, but wondered if it was likely to have any direct effects.

  4. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 09/10/2009 - 03:47 pm.

    The essence of the problem with journalism and blogging these days: bloggers are quick to point out that “both parties have accused each other of lying”, and journalists are quick to repeat this. Nobody asks the real question: IS anyone lying? That’s all that matters. If someone accuses the other party of lying, it completely matters whether they are or not. Otherwise the equivalence is false.

    But nobody cares anymore. We’re surrounded by false equivalences and nobody tries to discover the truth. The upshot is that when Obama calls out is opponents for lying, this is completely legit, because they HAVE BEEN lying for months, what with the demonstrably false crap about death panels and such. On the other hand, Wilson’s comment was provably false: it is absolutely not the case that illegal immigrants are covered. Now, if Republicans are interested in exploring the subtlety of making this more explicit, that’s fine, but saying that Obama is lying is, well, a lie.

  5. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 09/10/2009 - 04:40 pm.

    I would correct Mr. Klein by pointing out that newspapers are quick to point out the accusations, and even quicker to “cite” blogs as saying the same.

    It takes very little effort to find blogs that detail in heroic length the exact nature of the lies, who says them, and who pays them to say it. Start with mediamatters.org, check out firedoglake.com, or just go to Google’s blog search and punch in the keywords for your search. It takes a little effort, but while you’re searching you’re not having your head filled with hooey, so it’s time well spent.

    And throw your TV and radio into the recycling bin where they belong.

  6. Submitted by Barbara Gilbertson on 01/22/2013 - 11:53 am.

    ‘But what else do you call charges of “death panels”
    and “free insurance for illegal immigrants”? Misstatements?’

    I call them Bachmanian rants.

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