By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The Globe takes the GOP’s bait

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.

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  1. mike_b1

    If I remember right, the Globe was more than happy to carry George Bush’s water in dousing John Kerry, too. Swift Boat this!But I suspect this is different. Recall the Globe endorsed Clinton over Obama. Black men simply aren’t welcome in Boston, Dan.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Mike: The Globe endorsed Obama, and I have no doubt it will do so again.Boston clearly still has racial problems, though — admittedly speaking from the perspective of a white male — they seem to be quite a bit less than they were a generation ago. But I really don’t believe the Globe is part of that particular problem.The problem of which the Globe is a part is the nominally liberal mainstream media twisting themselves into knots to appear even-handed rather than simply just telling the truth. The liberal media love nothing more than to bash liberal politicians, because it’s money in the bank that they can spend when they are accused of liberal bias.

  3. Anonymous

    Isn’t AVOIDING liberal bias in the first place a better way to avoid the accusation?

  4. Neil

    Salem, 1692. Interview with Sarah Good: I am not a witch!Isn’t NOT BEING a witch in the first place a better way to avoid the accusation of being a witch?

  5. Anonymous

    Dan, Open is a Senator who is the presumptive nominee. He can’t take his candidate’s hat off and put it on at will. For the time being he has forfeited the right to be “just a Senator” or speak “as an average citizen.”Paul, Norwell

  6. io saturnalia!

    Obama’s arrogance? It looks to me like the Republicans have simply come up with a politically correct synonym for “uppity.”

  7. mike_b1

    Dan, my bad.

  8. Dan Kennedy

    Neil: Sarah Good was not a witch.

  9. Don, American

    Good grief, there’s no such thing as a witch (except, possibly, your mother-in-law).

  10. Anonymous

    Perhaps we can blame this on the recent health issue in the Globe cafeteria?

  11. Anonymous

    Imagine if Hillary was the candidate? She’d be spending half her time saying “I am not a witch.”

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