Slumming It: the Manhattan Institute edition
The following is adapted from a comment I left at www.city-journal.org.
Shooting a large fish in a small barrel is a solemn affair.
Let us begin.
There’s a lot to take issue with here. The task seems overwhelming at first, but upon immediate re-consideration it becomes clear that while there might be a lot of rhetorical boxes to unpack, all of them are in fact empty. And opening them reveals that the existential-crisis inducing void that confronts is does not result from Obama, but rather the gaps between Andrew Klavan’s reasoning and his evidence.
First Klavan introduces his thesis via a stark contrast. His argument is that,
“It was not that Obama had done nothing to deserve these outsized comparisons and honors—it was not just that he had done nothing—it was that he seemed for all the world to be a blank screen on which such hysterical fantasies could too easily be projected, a two-dimensional paper doll just waiting to be dressed in leftist dreams.”
This he makes all the more dramatic by positioning the President’s supposed achievements along side the sycophantic but-kissing employed by the press in response to the first black person to hold that office.
The assertion immediately gives way to assumption though, as evidenced by his next line. “This weird quality of emptiness” is what Klavan is supposed to prove, and yet it immediately becomes a forgone conclusion, not to be defended at any point later on in the post.
One thing that puts up a red flag immediately is this,
“And such previous Obamas as the race-baiting, black-talking demagogue of a 2007 video recently covered in full for the first time by The Daily Caller’s Tucker Carlson are not at all apparent in the Obama of the Oval Office or the campaign trail…”
Writing this demonstrates that Klavan is either 1.) extremely misinformed, and unaware that he is, or 2.) a hack.
The 2007 speech was covered extensively at the time. Many news sites transcribed and reported on it, many blogs reacted to it. If Klavan is being ironic here—well, he could stand to do it better.
Next he does something even more asinine, which is reference Podhoretz,
“But I think the real Obama has been more or less plain to see. Norman Podhoretz described him best in a 2011 Wall Street Journal op-ed: a typical product of the anti-American academic left, committed to transforming U.S. capitalism into a social-democratic system like Sweden’s.”
Podhoretz is a neocon hack who writes for Commentary, a super right wing publication that is run by a nefarious mix of millionaires and nepotism. And instead of quoting another writer who offers evidence to support his claim, Klavan quotes another writer’s thesis and claims it at his own, the effect of which is to show that at least someone else agrees with Klavan, and that someone’s Op-Ed appeared in the Wall Street Journal, so we’re probably right.
The little evidence Klavan does marshal in his favor, doesn’t even support the claim that Obama is a ineffectual shade, it’s to support a subsidiary claim that the news media peddles in left wing fantasies.
“The active frauds—NBC’s dishonest editing of videos to reflect a leftist worldview, ABC’s allowing Democratic operative George Stephanopoulos to masquerade as a newsman, the Los Angeles Times’ suppressing even the transcript of the video in their possession that shows candidate Barack Obama at a meeting with a PLO-supporting sheik—these are only egregious salients of the more consistent, underlying dishonesty.”
Notice no links, no clear references. And, if this was the modus operandi of the news media, you’d think he’d be able to find more examples, and ones that are more endemic to the system he’s critiquing—not individual instances which can each be better explained by a push for ratings (the editing he mentions, and Stephanopoulos) than a political agenda.
And notice how he invokes the following specters without actually explaining what their inclusion in his rambling is suppose to demonstrate:
“The real steady-state corruption is revealed in the way Obama scandals like Fast and Furious, Benghazi-gate, and the repeated breaking of federal campaign laws have been wildly underplayed, while George W. Bush’s non-scandals, like the naming of Valerie Plame and the firings of several U.S. attorneys at the start of his second term, were blown out of all proportion.”
Fast and Furious was a botched FBI ATF operation, not a cover-up, and it has been covered extensively. Benghazi-gate, to the degree that one believes the White House conspired to mislead, rather than being simply uninformed, was also covered in detail. If he wants to claim that federal campaign laws have been broken, he should probably mention which ones, and by whom, and oh yea, include some actual links so we can figure out what exactly he’s talking about.
All of which is to say: maybe Klavan would do well to watch, listen to, and read more of the news media he is condemning so he could do so without revealing his own ignorance.
Instead, Klavan’s only reliable tool is repetition. Maybe if he repeats the same claim, in enough different ways, it will be true!
“And it is revealed in Obama’s blankness, his make-believe greatness, and the suppression, ridicule, and dismissal of any evidence that he is not the man this powerful media faction once wanted so badly for him to be.”
From here he proceeds to tilt at windmills,
“No other modern president could have associated so intimately with lowlifes like Wright and Ayers and the now-imprisoned Tony Rezko and not had those associations exposed in every detail.”
Is there information that Klavan is still waiting to be exposed in any of these cases? If so, what is it? The argument he’s making relies on the syllogism: The Media does not investigate Obama’s record and past associations, and Obama is actually a vacant-eye-ed political husk, ergo the news media has manufactured Obama’s image, rather than trying to show the man as he really is.
Unfortunately, Klavan does not even attempt to prove either of his supporting premises. He merely asserts them over and over again, providing only casual references and off-the-cuff non sequiturs in his defense.
The thing reads like a nonsensical rant motivated by bigotry and partisan wish-fulfillment. Why does he spend so much time focusing on Obama’s supposed racial hatred (Wright/Katrina remarks) if it’s really his economic agenda that Romney disemboweled in the debate? Why does he not mention a single one of the President’s policies, i.e. his actual record, if he thinks the man is such a fraud?
It’s a joke. Whoever published it is a joke. Whoever agrees with it is a joke. It only demonstrates the provinciality of the City Journal that they can’t afford their url (low blow, I know) and couldn’t get an actual thriller author (Brad Thor, Tom Clancy?) to fill their digital op-ed page with conservative propaganda. Instead they got the next best thing: a young adult (read: tween) fiction author.
And had the editor put Klavan’s byline at the top, so we could all see that he writes young adult thriller fiction, more people might be able to save themselves the waste of time that is reading it.