Politico Reaches New Low

People know that I’m not exactly the biggest fan of Politico, but this has to be a new low. Apparently, Politico did some quasi-analysis of Obama’s speeches, counting references to specific words. The outcome apparently is that “Obama’s words downplay wars.”

How on earth do you make the jump from the references to the word “war” to the fact that Obama is “downplaying” the issue? It really defies any sort of standard for intellectual rigor, even by Politico’s complete lack of respect for well…anything. I bet if you looked at President Bush’s speeches from 2001-2002 you wouldn’t find a whole lot of reference to “waterboarding” or “torture” but clearly you’d be a real rube to argue that the Bush administration was downplaying intelligence gathering. Of course there’s no mention of the issue that Obama isn’t trying to sell the wars in which were involved to anyone — we’ve already launched them. As such, most of the policy is handled outside of Congress. What would he be playing up, exactly?

So there’s that, but at even a cursory examination of the bubbles, you realize the analysis is even more contrived than it looks. For instance, if you add up national security topics like War, Iraq, Israel, Afghanistan, Palestinian, Terrorism, Security, and Iran you get 2,566 mentions, which would come in second only to “America.” Obviously then, national security is not a topic that’s been “downplayed.” If I could pick one passage to epitomize the baffling level of stupidity in this piece though, it would be this one:

But the disparity in his choice of language between topics domestic and foreign — with every word uttered by a president carefully weighed and vetted — is so distinct that Republicans charge that it shows a predisposition toward downplaying the threats abroad, the ones that his predecessor George W. Bush faced.

“That tells you everything you need to know about the priorities of this administration,” says Marc Thiessen, a former chief speechwriter to Bush. “Clearly, President Obama has made health care a priority and the war on terrorism a lot less of a priority.”

By my count, there are several stupid assumptions here. One is the assumption that President Bush wasn’t “playing up” the fighting terrorists. How do we know that Obama isn’t at the right level and that Bush was too high? Second, why does mentioning the word “war” less than health care(again, national security topics rank quite high in aggregate) reflect Obama’s priorities? Can Obama not have a top foreign policy priority and a top domestic priority? And again, he doesn’t need to publicly sell a war policy that already existed. Lastly, how does the number of times a word appears in a speech evidence priorities? Doesn’t it just reflect what Obama thinks he has the most to gain by talking about? Doesn’t it also reflect what people have asked him about?

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2 Responses to “Politico Reaches New Low”

  1. jonolan Says:

    What someone talks about is generally considered a decent indicator of their priorities. Looking at the cloud (Discounting the word America because it has no bearing on the question at hand) and aggregating all the foreign policy words still doesn’t equal the domestic ones.

    That lends credence to the theory that Obama has far more concern for domestic issues than for foreign ones and for national security.

    OK. Do real problem there. People knew that Obama had no experience in foreign policy and little interest in it when they elected him. Bush had already largely wrapped up the immediately threats to the US, so it shouldn’t be much of problem.

    I despise Obama, but I don’t see what anyone’s issue with this set of priorities is.

  2. Mike Says:

    1) the suggestion that Bush had “wrapped up” any threats to the states whatsoever, foreign or domestic, military or otherwise, immediately renders the rest of your post irrefutably idiotic and suggests that you have little comprehension of what you’re talking about. nonetheless i feel compelled to respond.

    2) “is generally considered” by whom? foreign versus domestic had damn well better be tilted this way after obama inherited the worst recession since the depression.

    3) there are no newsworthy policy decisions taking place internationally at present. thus, he’s not wasting time playing the politics of fear that defined bush’s presidency

    4) bush’s experience with foreign policy before his election consisted of little more than palin’s: being in proximity to a foreign country. oh, and he snorted a goodly amount of peruvian cocaine, if that counts. and i suppose there were some foreign born folks on the Rangers.


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