Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Somerby Gets It Wrong

It is a sad day. I have to disagree with Bob Somerby of The Daily Howler today.

Why? Because, as he so often says, he gets it wrong.

On the one hand, he gets points for being even-handed enough to take on real liberals for what he feels is a mischaracterization of something reported in the news. On the other hand, just because Keith Olbermann was a bit over-the-top when he called Charlie Black's comments earlier this year - that a terrorist attack would help the Republican Party - an "obscenity", that hardly qualifies as being equal to the full-throated bellow to which so many in the media are giving vent because Clark had the audacity to say what he said; here's the example Somerby chooses, from CNN's Campbell Brown:
onight, we begin with John McCain's military service under attack. Should the record of a celebrated POW be fair game during this campaign? As always, we give you the facts—no bias, no bull—on the strong push-back over what some see as the Obama campaign's attempt to swift-boat John McCain, and this coming on the day Obama delivers a major speech on patriotism in the carefully staged location of Independence, Missouri.

Somerby points out, from Clark's comments to Bob Schieffer on Sunday, that Clark did in fact criticize McCain's military career:
But when you go out of your way to say that someone “hasn’t had to make the tough decisions” (in the way I, Wes Clark, have done), is it true that you aren’t “dissing his military experience in any way, shape or form?” Hacks of the left will insist on such claims.

Except, of course, the portion of Clark's comments that Somerby highlights aren't a criticism of McCain's military career. They are a criticism of his lack of executive experience.
But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded wasn't a wartime squadron. He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn't seen what it's like when diplomats come in and say, “I don't know whether we're going to be able to get this point through or not. Do you want to take the risk? What about your reputation? How do we handle it publicly?” He hasn't made those calls, Bob.

And, yes, Bob, Wes Clark has made those calls.

Comparing the reaction on the part of one or two commentators to Charlie Black's ill-advised comments (which are nothing more than standard-issue Republican talking points) to the Pundit Panty-bunch going on right now over Clark's comments is nonsensical. While Somerby is right that our time is being wasted by what is an unremarkable statement, he is wrong when he says it was "dumb". It wasn't dumb, it was an astute observation about a central argument McCain has been using for nine years as an argument that he should be President. It dismisses this argument quickly and cleanly.

The real story, now that we are three days removed from the original comment, is the press corps reaction to Clark's comments. That Somerby misses this point is surprising; that he compares the remarks by Keith Olbermann to the entire Washington-based media (with the notable exception, as he points out, of the the Washington Post's editorial page) throwing a tantrum shows that he lacks a certain appreciation of proportion.

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