What a difference three and a half years make:
Obama’s finest speeches do not excite. They do not inform. They don’t even really inspire. They elevate. They enmesh you in a grander moment, as if history has stopped flowing passively by, and, just for an instant, contracted around you, made you aware of its presence, and your role in it. He is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh, over color, over despair. The other great leaders I’ve heard guide us towards a better politics, but Obama is, at his best, able to call us back to our highest selves, to the place where America exists as a glittering ideal, and where we, its honored inhabitants, seem capable of achieving it, and thus of sharing in its meaning and transcendence.
— Ezra Klein, Journolist founder, January 3, 2008, though it seems like it was written 100 years ago. Flash-forward to today, where Obama is now a victim of the same pundit class that once lofted him up on such mighty rhetorical winds. Michelle Goldberg of the Daily Beast and Newsweek lets it all hang out here:
Here’s why Mark Halperin is a disgrace. It’s not because he used a mild obscenity to describe our president on Morning Joe, disrespectful as that was. Rather, it was the circumstances of the slur. Right now, the Republican Party is threatening to blow up the world economy unless Democrats agree to savage cuts in spending while refusing any of the revenue increases that all serious economists say are necessary to actually address the national debt. Obama, whose greatest fault in office has been a misplaced faith in the GOP’s capacity for reasonableness, went on television and chided the party for this stance. Apparently, this struck Halperin as unreasonable. His response embodies all that’s rotten and shallow about D.C.’s pundit class, which fetishizes bipartisanship even as it only demands it of one political party.
H.L. Mencken, who once wrote, “It is the prime function of a really first-rate newspaper to serve as a sort of permanent opposition in politics,” is somewhere offstage either weeping with tears at the state of industry, or laughing hysterically. Probably the latter, as it would take a heart of stone not to laugh at this defense of the president, to paraphrase an earlier iconoclast and gadfly.
Stacy McCain responds to Michelle Goldberg’s bizarre “Leave Obama Alone!” rant:
As Jonah Goldberg says, this is not a parody — an elite liberal journalist from Manhattan denouncing the “pundit class” as if she were a grassroots populist outsider, you see.
Well, fair is fair. In 2009, after Newsweek morphed into a magazine so slanted and toxic, it was offloaded the following year by the Washington Post for a dollar, Andrew Ferguson wrote that it transformed itself from a staid newsweekly (hence the name) to “a liberal opinion magazine written by liberals who don’t want to admit they’re liberals.” Michelle Goldberg of the current incarnation of Newsweek* is simply taking that equation to its logically absurdist (or absurdistly logical) conclusion.
* As Ferguson noted back then, Newsweek lost the first syllable of its name several years ago. These days, it’s hellbent on jettisoning the second half as well.