Monday, March 23, 2009

More “Old Gray Lady” Presidential Pundit Piffle

(I also took issue with some commentary from Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times here.)

Yesterday in the Times, Stolberg tried to compare the furor concerning the AIG bonuses with other presidential “distractions” from here, as follows…

Mr. Obama is hardly the first American president to grapple with a distraction, a diversion — an outright red herring, some might call it — that grew bigger than itself. Ronald Reagan had the Air Force’s $7,622 coffeepot and the Navy’s $435 claw hammer, as well as an ill-fated effort to save money by classifying ketchup as a school lunch vegetable. Bill Clinton had midnight basketball and a high-priced haircut from a Beverly Hills stylist aboard Air Force One. George W. Bush was blindsided by an executive branch decision to contract with Dubai Ports World, an Arab-owned company, to manage terminals in six American ports.
You mean Stolberg didn’t mention Jimmy Carter and the “killer rabbit”? She must be slipping.

I’m not sure how it is exactly that anyone can consider the genuine rage over what AIG has perpetrated with our government acting as willing accomplices to be nothing more than a “distraction” and thus worthy of the comparisons noted above; a member of our pundit class would have to be truly out of touch to consider an event completely symptomatic of the meltdown of our financial markets to be nothing but a “red herring.”

Also, I’m not going to comment on anything having to do with Reagan as noted above; those people in the mythmaking industry concerning our 40th president can jump to his defense if they so choose (once more, all of that and more is discussed in Will Bunch’s fine book on that subject).

No, I’m taking issue here with what Stolberg said about President Clinton because if Stolberg is going to slam The Big Dog, then she should do the same thing to Poppy Bush, who had the following to say about midnight basketball (remember the whole “thousand points of light,” thing? Well, this tells us more)…

And you know, when Van Standifer visited the White House a few months ago, he said, ``The last thing in the world that Midnight Basketball is about is basketball.'' He said it was about providing opportunities for young adults to escape drugs and get on with their lives. And he's right. Midnight Basketball has become a real community institution. And people come to play and to watch and to cheer and to find new hope and to shape their lives. Streets once littered with drugs and plagued by violence have become peaceful and passable. Not surprisingly, the crime rate has dropped by 60 percent since this program began. And so, Van, in my view, you are doing the kind of creative thinking that we need to encourage everywhere in this country.
Also, Stolberg resurrects the myth about how Clinton’s haircut on Air Force One by Beverly Hills stylist Cristophe supposedly held up air traffic at LAX in 1993, when in reality…

According to Federal Aviation Administration records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the May 18 haircut caused no significant delays of regularly scheduled passenger flights - no circling planes, no traffic jams on the runways.
However, I will grant that Stolberg is an expert in “red herrings”; I think she’s highly credible on the subject, given that they’re plentiful in her “reporting.”

Update: Speaking of the AIG "distraction" and related financial disasters, as far as I'm concerned, this question should be asked above all others.

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