NYT forgets to back up its A1 critique of Obama

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

Here's the (print edition) headline:

Major plans, softer stands: Obama is accepting Washington reality

It's all about how Obama has a habit of capitulating on his agenda; how the White House backs down from confrontation and plays it safe.

Write Jackie Calmes and David Herszenhorn [emphasis added]:

President Obama is well known for bold proposals that have raised expectations, but his administration has shown a tendency for compromise and caution, and even a willingness to capitulate on some early initiatives. It was inevitable that Mr. Obama's lofty pledge to change the ways of Washington would crash into the realities of governing, including lawmakers anxious to protect their constituents and an army of special-interest lobbyists.

I always get suspicious when I see journalists criticizing Obama for saying he claimed as a candidate that he was going to completely reinvent Washington, because honestly I don't remember those radical promises from the campaign trail. (I remember a more general theme of change.) And wouldn't you know it, the Times doesn't bother to provide any actual evidence about how Obama, as a candidate, made sweeping claims about altering government; claims that today have been abandoned.

In fact, the article's examples of Obama backing down on issues seem rather trivial vs. bold. For instance, the Times notes up high in the piece:

Congressional Democrats effectively killed his proposal to slash farm subsidies by nearly $1 billion a year, and forced him to retreat partially on a plan to require private insurers to pick up more of veterans' health costs. They also got him to shelve the idea of a commission to buttress Social Security's finances.

I'm sorry, but the idea that Obama ran for president on the idea that he was going to cut farm subsidies or adjust veterans' health costs doesn't ring true. Instead, those seem like examples of everyday D.C. give-and take.

And then the Times claimed this:

And Thursday, Mr. Obama suggested that he would not fight in Congress to renew an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. It was the latest example of the pragmatic approach he adopted after winning the presidency by promising to challenge entrenched interests and put the public good ahead of political expedience.

Again, as a candidate did Obama ever announce he'd renew an assault weapons ban? If so, the Times doesn't provide the evidence. And if Obama did not campaign on that issue, how is that an example of him caving in once he became elected?

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