Stuck in a Rut: The Libs at the Post Can't Help It

The liberals in the Washington Post‘s editorial department just can’t help themselves.

No matter how wrong President Bush’s critics may be or how inept a potential president John Kerry may appear to be, if the Post‘s liberals start to notice either, they trip on their way to being correct and fall into their usual rut.

They did so twice yesterday, on the Op-Ed page alone.

First, David Broder’s regular opinion column was 94-percent great. In his piece titled “Would FDR Run Those 9/11 Ads?” Broder defended well the legitimacy of the Bush campaign’s use of September 11 scenes in television advertisements. He wrote that “[w]hen the country really needed a president, he was there, his words and his actions serving as the rallying point for a shaken nation” so “[i]t is no wonder he wants to recall the emotions of the time; it was, in Churchill’s phrase, his ‘finest hour.'”

Broder went on to point out evidence of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Democratic Party’s use of World War II in the 1944 reelection campaign, including:

  • FDR’s absence from the Democratic convention because, as he, himself, explained, his position of leadership during the war required him to stay at his post;
  • FDR’s nomination acceptance speech to the convention via radio from the San Diego Naval Station;
  • Convention keynote speaker then-Gov. Robert Kerr’s (Okla.) remarks denouncing the GOP’s lack of preparation for war before Pearl Harbor; and
  • Democratic Sen. Samuel Jackson’s (Ind.) implication that a Democratic defeat in 1944 would be valuable to Japan and Germany.

But then, Broder blew it. He couldn’t stay away from the usual liberal political trappings of class warfare and higher taxes. Here are his closing lines:

    Far better than criticizing his ads, ask why Bush is not calling on comfortable Americans to make any sacrifices for the war effort and why he refuses to raise the revenue to pay for what he calls a life-and-death struggle.

    Those are the legitimate issues.

On the page facing Broder’s column was the Post‘s lead editorial “Flip-Flop, Hedge and Straddle,” which looked like it was going to be a rip on Kerry’s repeated back-and-forth on every conceivable issue. But it wasn’t.

Sure, the editorial did note some of Kerry’s equivocations, but instead of focusing on the problem Kerry is sure to face throughout the election, the Post decided to use it as an opportunity to rip President Bush. Early in the second paragraph, the subject switched from a look at Kerry’s “bet-hedging” to a critique of Bush’s “flip-flops,” in which the Post noted:

    Though Mr. Kerry has been in public life longer than President Bush, his supporters can find a Bush flip for just about every Kerry flop. Mr. Bush fought the creation of a homeland security department until one day he loved the idea. As a candidate he supported regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from power plants; as president he opposed it. Most famously, the great belittler of nation-building has dispatched American troops on hugely ambitious projects to rebuild the nations of Afghanistan, Iraq and now Haiti.

    But Bush reversals differ from Kerry waffles. Mr. Bush seems to his detractors to change course with worrisomely little thought — and to feel just as sure of himself in his new position as he was in his old. Earlier, he was jauntily certain that the United States should conduct a humble foreign policy; now he is jauntily certain that it should pursue a grand campaign against evil. Because the administration rarely admits that its positions have changed, even when the change is obvious, and because no introspection or process of deliberation is evident, the depth of commitment may be suspect.

By the end of the editorial, the writers found their original point again, saying “It’s not always clear what, if anything, [Kerry’s] committed to” and asking “Where are the bedrock principles that would guide him in office?” But their bird walk into the bash-Bush-whatever-the-subject-matter realm detracted from what could have been an insightful editorial.

Do I think the Post should never question or criticize Bush? Certainly not — Lord knows that conservatives and liberals both have their share of items to criticize. But I don’t think that the Post should feel obligated to jump on the President whenever they are forced to criticize Democrats.

My thought is that rather than continuing to fall into the same bash-Bush rut every time they begin to follow the road to reality, the Post needs stop playing along the edges. Or they need to stay in the rut and not pretend to be fair or objective.