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The insufferable Ron Fournier, one of the last journalists still running the false equivalence play without any discernible sense of shame or embarrassment, has, with his Tuesday column, reached to the point of parody. For those who don't know, "false equivalence" refers to the maddening insistence on the part of establishment journalists to twist themselves into knots in an effort to assign perpetual blame to Both Sides for all of the alleged "gridlock" and "dysfunction" in Washington. Thankfully, this phenomenon is slowly dissipating; it's simply no longer possible to coherently argue that what's happening is anything other than House Republicans engaging in straight-up political terrorism. At this point, proponents of false equivalence have no more right to write about politics than creationists have to write about biology. They lost the plot a long time ago.

Fournier's entire approach to his work, though, is premised on this alternative reality in which Both Sides are, by definition, to blame, and he is likely to be the last true believer. Years from now, we'll find him on some street corner in D.C., muttering to himself about "dysfunction" and "leadership," long after the likes of Chris Cillizza and Roger Simon have abandoned ship.

Actually, Fournier's new piece for National Journal raises the legitimate possibility that he's just fucking with us. It's titled "The Beginning of the End for Washington" and the subtitle laments the regression of the "political system" from "dysfunctional" to "nonfunctional." Fournier starts by acknowledging that the Republican Party is "marginalizing itself to the brink of extinction," and that Obama "can't capitulate" to "GOP demands to unwind the fairly legislated and litigated Affordable Care Act," that to do so would be "political malpractice and a poor precedent for future presidents."

Give Fournier some credit, though: for such a dedicated adherent to the utterly untenable doctrine of false equivalence, even writing those trivial, insultingly obvious sentences could not have been easy. However, he then quickly disabuses readers of any notion that he might abandon this posture that has sustained his columns, which are all virtually indistinguishable, for the past few years. Obama and the Democrats are "less at fault," he generously concedes, but are nonetheless far from "blameless" and will doubtless "feel the voters' wrath." Remember, we're at the eleventh hour, with the government shut down and a confrontation with the debt ceiling rapidly approaching, and yet for some reason Fournier is concerned about "the voters' wrath," with the next national elections more than a year away.

After then spending a number of paragraphs accurately indicting the Republicans for their unprecedented lunacy, Fournier pivots to Obama, and it's worth quoting at length:

At the risk of being accused of "false equivalency" I need to state the obvious: Obama and his party won't emerge from a shutdown or debt crisis unscathed. To suggest otherwise is a false purity. For starters, the president of the United States is the living symbol of our government and thus receives undue credit when things are going well and outsized blame when they're not.

Second, voters want Obama to work with Republicans – or at least try. The president is seen by just half of Americans as trying to work with GOP lawmakers, according to the New York Times/CBS News poll. That is down from six of 10 Americans who said the same thing in January 2012 and three-quarters who said he would work with Republicans in 2010 and 2011.

Remember the central promise of Obama's presidency: He will change the culture of Washington. What happened? Obama has not only been taken hostage by the worst of Washington, gridlock and pettiness, but he seems to be suffering from Stockholm syndrome. His criticism of the GOP last week was as petulant as any GOP talking point. While announcing historic negotiations with Iran, a regime that sponsors terrorism, Obama said he wouldn't bargain with the GOP.

Reaching out to rivals doesn't mean capitulating on Obamacare. It does mean swallowing his pride, listening and helping the GOP find a way out of the box they've built for themselves. If this was merely a leadership pageant, Obama would win by default because House Speaker John Boehner is performing so poorly. But it's not. It's about the country that Obama leads, and everybody gets hurt when he cloisters himself off from the dirty process.

Obama's job approval numbers are already slipping. For the first time in months, more voters disapprove of his performance than approve. Two-thirds of Americans think the country is on the wrong track. The "wrong track" metric is one that often tracks the president's popularity. A government cataclysm this month will heighten voters' anxiety and Obama's jeopardy.

Please note that virtually nothing Fournier says about Obama here is actual substantive criticism, excepting the part about the president being too mean to Republicans, which is really just something the false equivalence crowd trots out when they have no ammo whatsoever. No, instead, Fournier is arguing that Obama is being damaged politically, with fewer Americans approving of his willingness to work with Republicans or his job performance in general.

First of all, this is just bizarre. Obama already won a second term. He can't run again. Why would anyone other than maybe the president's political team care about his "job approval," which is, of course, a fatuous measure anyway? As for Americans thinking Obama is not sufficiently willing to work with Republicans, well, that's simply untrue. To the extent that Americans do mistakenly believe this, it's because Republican propaganda generally advances whatever is the opposite of the truth, and four years of relentlessly hammering Obama for allegedly not working with them will, undeniably, have an effect on public perception.

Now, Ron Fournier is a journalist. Journalists - Chuck Todd notwithstanding - are traditionally charged with disseminating truth and providing an accurate portrayal of whatever beat they happen to be covering, which, in Fournier's case, is national politics. Here we find Fournier just passively noting that, while the Republicans may be substantively at fault for the current political insanity, the fall-out from said insanity will probably tarnish Obama and the Democrats too, so there! Any tolerably competent journalist, of course, would respond to this paradigm by informing the public that, in fact, Obama has made a painstaking effort to "work with Republicans," and that the reason Obama has failed at "changing the culture in Washington" is because the opposition party has behaved in a way that is unprecedented in the history of the republic.

Not Ron Fournier, though. The dictates of false equivalence are such that he cannot write that column. When there is no conceivable way to blame Both Sides, the false equivalence crowd will resort to vague, intangible failings on the part of Obama and the Democrats, which is exactly what Fournier then does in his Wednesday column, childishly titled "Why Is President Obama Lecturing Me?" Fournier could barely muster 300 words in this one, which is entirely focused to slamming Obama for his "tone" in how he is discussing the current political crisis. His tone!

It takes a special kind of illness to keep up the false equivalence approach at this point. House Republicans are holding the country hostage. The government is shut down and there is a very real possibility that the U.S. Government will default on its obligations for the first time in the history of the republic. Not only that, but, as Robert Costa of National Review has been reporting, Obama is a background player in this drama, which is currently all about John Boehner and Harry Reid and their political dynamic. Obama could adopt the "tone" of Stalin, or of Gandhi, and it would not make a lick of difference in what's happening in Congress right now. Someone please tell Ron Fournier.

{Originally posted at Crimethink}

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks, great diary! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Justin Doolittle, cosette

    The beltway media is starting to turn up the heat on Obama.  Chris Matthews was pushing for the President to cave on his show last night (think it was last night, could of been Monday)

      He was interviewing two "moderate" Republicans (sorry, can't remember their names and I don't know how to do links! So much for sourcing...).  He urged the President to be willing to compromise "for the country's sake" and asked the Republicans if they would be willing to accept a compromise of the President getting rid of the tax on medical devices.  I was screaming obscenities at the tv.

    God with friends like him who needs enemies.  Then of course Ed Rendell comes on and bloviates about waiting for the debt ceiling fight to "negotiate" about the terrible horrible no good debt (and you can just see him salivating and chomping at the bit to "reform" "the entitlements").  What a soulless man he has become, eyes completely blank.

    Ach my blood pressure...rant over.  

  •  What does "Obama pride" stretch say about RF? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    avsp

    Whoa:

    swallowing his pride
    is a stretch to recommend to the President who has accepted unprecedented amounts of disrespect without much complaint or evident anger.

    Taking the charitable view about what possessed Fournier to write those words, I am guessing that Fournier at some level knows that he himself is failing to swallow the pride that he has invested in his false equivalence.

    Apparently he cannot even fully persuade himself with this bizarre soufflé of intangibles-based metaphors:

    taken hostage by the worst of Washington, gridlock and pettiness, but he seems to be suffering from Stockholm syndrome. His criticism of the GOP last week was as petulant
  •  Fournier is not a "both sides do it" guy (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jabney, enemy of the people

    He's an out-and-out Republican who detests the Democrats.  Remember, he was thinking of leaving AP to join McCain's campaign back in '08.

    "Valerie, why am I getting all these emails calling me a classless boor?"

    by TLS66 on Wed Oct 02, 2013 at 09:01:10 AM PDT

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