The Boston Globe takes dictation from the Republican National Committee today, turning an innocuous remark by a Barack Obama adviser into evidence that Obama is so arrogant he’s already acting like he’s president.
I’ll work backwards. In a brief item, the Globe’s Foon Rhee notes that the RNC was gleefully passing around a story from the Politico yesterday in which an Obama adviser described the candidate’s speech in Berlin, scheduled for Thursday, as the sort that a president might deliver. Here’s Rhee:
… Republicans are highlighting any perceived hint of Obama arrogance. The Republican National Committee yesterday sent out a report by the Politico website about an exchange between reporters and an Obama adviser about Obama’s speech tomorrow in Berlin that is expected to draw thousands.
“It is not going to be a political speech,” the adviser said. “When the president of the United States goes and gives a speech, it is not a political speech or a political rally.”
“But he is not president of the United States,” a reporter replied, according to Politico.
That’s how the item ends. But it looked fishy to me, and I was right. Next stop: the RNC’s Web site, which highlights the exchange under its “Audacity Watch,” an ongoing feature dedicated to the proposition that Obama is so insufferably arrogant that he believes he might actually be elected president this November.
Finally, going back to the source, here is the Politico story that got the Republicans all excited. You will not be surprised to learn that their faux outrage is derived entirely from a crucial omission. Here’s what the Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown actually wrote:
At a morning background briefing, reporters parried with senior advisers on the characterization of Obama’s speech Thursday in Berlin as a campaign rally. The outdoor speech at the Victory Column could draw thousands of people, similar to the size of Obama events in the United States.
“It is not going to be a political speech,” said a senior foreign policy adviser, who spoke to reporters on background. “When the president of the United States goes and gives a speech, it is not a political speech or a political rally.”
“But he is not president of the United States,” a reporter reminded the adviser.
“He is going to talk about the issues as an individual … not as a candidate, but as an individual, as a senator,” the adviser added….
After the briefing, Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki offered a statement from [Obama campaign head David] Axelrod to reporters: “The answer is that, of course, any event outside of a [congressional delegation trip] is a campaign event. But it is not a political rally. He will not engage his American political opponents. It is a speech to our allies and the people of Europe and the world. And as such, we wanted it to be open to the public and not just invited guests.”
In other words, the Obama campaign, far from claiming presidential prerogatives, was trying to answer criticism that Obama’s Berlin speech will be a campaign rally held on foreign soil. The anonymous adviser tried to draw an analogy to a presidential speech, got cut down and quickly corrected himself. Axelrod then clarified.
If you want to criticize Obama for holding a campaign rally in Berlin, well, be my guest. But the Republicans are dead wrong to label this affair as evidence of Obama’s arrogance, and they made their case through dishonestly selective quoting. The Globe should have taken five more minutes to determine whether the attack was fair or not.