Fred Hiatt’s Circuitous False Equivalence

Not EqualLast week, Fred Hiatt over at the Washington Post came out in favor of presidential leadership, Obama Could Get Things Done by Governing Today. It is a wonderful example of false equivalence by a writer who knows that false equivalence is a bad thing. As a result of this, he cloaks the whole thing in an attack on Steve Israel’s claim that the Democrats really need to retake the House if Obama is going to get much done in his second term.

Who is Steve Israel? Only the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. In other words, he is boosting for the DCCC. His statement is not standing policy of the Democratic Party. No Democrat is standing around waiting until they control the House to do any work. But Hiatt has to pretend that they are so he can compare it to an unnamed Tea Party idiot who does think that the best strategy is for the Republicans to obstruct until they get a decisive electoral victory.

All of this is just a smokescreen for what Hiatt really wants to say: both sides do it! The meat of his article is found in the following two sentences:

Before his reelection, many Republicans presented Obama as a wild-eyed radical, a European-style socialist who had to be stopped. Today, many Democrats present the opposition as unnaturally extremist, pathologically opposed to progress.

The first sentence is mostly true. It is deceptive to say that “many” Republicans presented Obama that way. He should say “nearly all.” That image of Obama was and still is a staple of Fox News, Hate Radio, and the vast majority of Republicans in Congress. Hiatt’s second sentence is roughly the same. I would say that “most” Democrats present the Republican Party as “unnaturally extremist, pathologically opposed to progress.” What’s more, I would say this is largely a factual statement. It is possible that if a Republican were in the White House, the Republicans in Congress would be more reasonable. But that’s not saying much and last time I checked, there was not a Republican in the White House.

After this stunning bit of false equivalence, Hiatt brings the article back to his cover story: the parties can’t just wait until they have full control of the government! But even in making this point, he puts the onus entirely on the Democrats. This is at the end of an article in which he’s admitted that Obama is trying to work with the Republicans. This begs the question: what was the point of the whole article? His argument comes down to: both sides say the other is extremist (And who can say which side is right? Certainly not Fred Hiatt!); Obama is trying to work with the Republicans; Obama should do what I already said he is doing.

Brilliant, right?

Slow Poke False Equivalence

H/T 15 March Counterspin

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Fred Hiatt’s Circuitous False Equivalence

  1. Sorensen is so great. She and Tom Tomorrow are obviously milking the same territory — but that’s a territory quite ample to milk. When it comes to conservative hypocrisy, the udders are bloated and the cow is bleating.

    And, ugh — I see I just went all dairy farm on that analogy. Perils of life in the Midwest. I suppose if I still lived in Cali, I’d make a reference to killer waves begging to be surfed. If I still lived in New York, it’d be trucks unloading "discount" pants at 6AM in a back alley. And if I lived in the South . . . well, I don’t want to imagine what their expressions are. Although I can well imagine what their expressions are.

  2. @JMF – Everything is permitted–even dairy farm analogies.


    I agree: Sorensen is great.

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