Reading Comprehension for Grown-Ups

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 17 2010 9:23 AM

Reading Comprehension for Grown-Ups

Roger Simon woke up the other day and decided to write a smart-alecky column about how Barack Obama's stance on the Park51 Community Center also known as the Ground Zero Terror Mosque That Will Destroy Us All and 9/11 was a victory of character over politics. It's not hard to suss out where Simon stands with Obama or the consultants on this one.

An unidentified chief of staff to a "politically vulnerable HouseDemocrat" told James Hohmann and Maggie Haberman of POLITICO thatObama’s statement "probably alienates a lot of independent voters" and"there are a lot of [Democrats] who are spooked in tough districtstoday" and "a lot of Republicans licking their chops right now."

And what’s the point of doing the right thing if your party is going to lose seats because of it?

Maybe Obama is disconnected. After all, as a former professor ofconstitutional law, he actually knows what the Constitution says.

His opponents have no such fetters. They know what they want theConstitution to say: yes to guns, no to gay marriage and never tomosques close to hallowed ground, though churches and synagogues areOK.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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Not exactly subtle. Curiously, though, Politico packaged the column as a flat-out prediction that Obama would be a one-term president. "Simon says President Obama doesn't understand what savvy first-term presidents need to understand," reads the photo caption. On the home page, readers are pointed to the article with the deck: "Simon says Obama is often off message and sometimes doesn't even listen to his advisers." At one level, sure, he's saying Obama's principles make his life difficult, but that's not really his point. But for hours, here's how Matt Drudge linked the column:

Now, I have some experience with the joy of misleading Drudge links. Earlier this year I wrote a post about Rep. Bob Etheridge, D-N.C., bullying a cameraman who wouldn't say who he was. I described Etheridge's over-the-top reaction blow-by-blow.

"Who are you?" asked Etheridge, grabbing one of the cameras andpointing it down -- a move more typically seen from Hollywoodbodyguards than congressmen. The second camera rolled as Etheridge,irritated, held the wrist of the first cameraman, then pulled thestudent to his side and grabbed him in a hug.

That inspired this headline from Drudge: WAPO: NOT AN ASSAULT, A "HUG." This was a mixed blessing. Thousands of people visited the post, making my advertisers happy. But most of those people didn't read it. They saw the Drudge headline and pounced, accusing me of defending Etheridge's outrage.

This is a strange thing about the Internet. Sometimes, it becomes clear that people are linking to what you write without actually reading it. It's a bit like watching someone hold your newspaper over his head during a rainstorm you're happy he's paying for it, but you realize he's getting a use from your work that has little relationship to what you did.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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