An unsigned Oklahoman editorial recently published on NewsOK.com calling President Barack Obama “The Great Divider” is a reductionist, evidence-lacking piece of silly drivel, sophomoric in its approach and basically untruthful in its meager content.
No, it’s The Oklahoman that is The Great Divider, a newspaper that for decades hasn’t allowed consistent dissenting views on its ultra-conservative editorial page and a newspaper that only reports the news with objectivity when it doesn’t concern its conservative ownership, whether it’s the current owner, Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz, or, in the past, the Gaylord family.
The idea that an editorial in The Oklahoman could have anything more to say about the country’s first African American president than a few, reused conservative clichés should make anyone, even Republicans here, knowingly chuckle and roll their eyes. But the faux dramatic voice of The Great Divider piece deserves some extra heckles from the reality-based community here. Shall we?
So there it was, folks, published on Feb. 10, two days before Obama’s state of the union address, titled “President Barack Obama Has Earned Great Divider Label,” complete with a goofy piece of artwork that depicted the president above a broken-in-two United States. Get it? He’s the awful “divider.” Isn’t it so sad? Boo hoo. You can’t make this stuff up.
The editorial was a pathetic, provincial attempt at preemption before Obama’s speech, and, really, who would take it seriously anyway, but the absurdity of its main thesis deserves our attention.
Here’s the gut of the argument:
The Great Divider is an apt choice for Obama. He has earned it. The sobriquet isn’t overtly partisan: Much of the man’s political success owes to his penchant for dividing people into camps and appealing to one group by diminishing the other. This has been good for his career. But it has not been good for the United States of America.
Note the clever use of italics by this clever writer in this clever newspaper. Note “diminishing the other,” which in the twisted logic of The Oklahoman means diminishing the powerful reach of billionaires and millionaires who run his country. “The Other” has been used as an intellectual construct to describe marginalized people; the editorial uses it in just the opposite way.
The Oklahoman sobriquet, then, is a complete reversal of the truth. It’s the right-wing noise machine and recalcitrant, ultra-conservative Republicans who have divided this country, not Obama. It’s Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck who have divided this country, not Obama. It’s U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan and Sarah Palin who have divided this country, not Obama. It’s the greed of corporate America that has divided the country, not Obama. It’s the Koch brothers and Karl Rove. It’s Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham. It’s The Oklahoman. The list goes on.
Perhaps, more than anyone else, it was former President George W. Bush who divided this country with his two long-term military occupations and his lack of financial stewardship that caused the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
The editorial’s only attempt of providing any real evidence beyond rhetorical comparisons to former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt for its name calling is this:
Obama solicited ideas from diverse coalitions – on health care, deficit reduction, business growth – but refused to listen. He pushed through a health care package with zero Republican support. He ignored his own deficit commission. He formed and then ignored and then disbanded a council of advisers drawn from the business sector.
As any rational person will recall, it has been Republican stubbornness and political maneuvering that has held up compromise, not Obama’s refusal to listen to anyone.
The health care reform was demonized by Republicans at its inception despite the fact Obama displeased many progressives, myself included, for not pushing for a single payer system. Giving up on a single payer health care system, at least for now, was a huge, historic compromise.
When it comes to deficit reduction, Obama has even offered cuts in future Social Security payments, which goes against the majority of his party. Obama has also consistently stressed business growth in his tenure, even coming to Oklahoma to give his support to the southern part of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
The idea that Obama has ignored commissions and councils is ridiculous. Any bipartisan group will mirror the political reality of its time. We know what the issues are, and we know the disagreements. No one group of pontificating egotists is going to change that. The Oklahoman just recently published another editorial criticizing the whole idea of commissioning studies instead of taking action.
The editorial ends with an empty and goofy rhetorical flourish. Read these sentences in your best pseudo-I’m-giving-an-important-speech voice, and be sure to stress “unrelenting”:
We need reasoned debate. We need a reasonable president. We need a uniter.
What we have instead is unearned, unwarranted, unrelenting scorn from The Great Divider.
Powerful stuff, right? There’s that clever use of italics again with the word “unrelenting.” Note all the series of “uns.” Takes a brilliant mind to come up with that, right? What does “unrelenting scorn” mean, anyway? What are we supposed to think? Obama: “I feel only scorn for you people and it’s unrelenting.” It’s just nonsense.
Here’s the scornful “Great Divider” in his state of the union address:
I realize that tax reform and entitlement reform won’t be easy. The politics will be hard for both sides. None of us will get 100 percent of what we want. But the alternative will cost us jobs, hurt our economy, and visit hardship on millions of hardworking Americans. So let’s set party interests aside, and work to pass a budget that replaces reckless cuts with smart savings and wise investments in our future. And let’s do it without the brinksmanship that stresses consumers and scares off investors. The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next. Let’s agree, right here, right now, to keep the people’s government open, pay our bills on time, and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America. The American people have worked too hard, for too long, rebuilding from one crisis to see their elected officials cause another.
Note the sentence, “None of us will get 100 percent of what we want.” In the world of The Oklahoman editorial page, the only fair compromise is one in which ultra-conservative Republicans get 100 percent of what they want even though the presidency and the U.S. Senate are controlled by Democrats. Anything less, people, is unrelenting scorn and division.
I will say it again and again: Oklahoma City and state residents deserve a reasoned, balanced editorial page from its largest newspaper.