Politico‘s False Equivalence on Media’s Putin Love Affair

PutinDigby also sent me to a very funny article by Roger Simon, Mess With Bull, Get Horns. But she didn’t see the article the way I did. The article makes fun of the sudden outbreak of Putin love here in the United States. But as one would expect from Politico, Simon couldn’t just attack the conservative side, which is the only side with the crush. So he engages in some of the most extreme false equivalence I’ve ever seen.

You have no doubt seen the love that Fox News is giving to Putin. It takes the form of, “Putin rides around shirtless on a horse while Obama rides a bicycle (How girly!) with a helmet (Wimp!) in mom jeans!” Check out The Young Turks video, “You’ll Never Guess Who Loves Putin” for a good rundown. (I’ve embedded it below.) Others have noticed the weird double image conservatives have of Obama. On the one hand, he’s a despot who has staged a huge power grab. On the other hand, he’s an indecisive wimp. So the subject is ripe for humor.

There are liberals who have sided with Putin. Jonathan Chait described this group in an article last week, The Pathetic Lives of Putin’s American Dupes. But as he pointed out, this is a small group. And a weird group. And they are not Putin lovers; they are Russia apologists. There is not a lot of humor potential there.

So what is a Washington insider determined to equate left and right to do? First, define centrists and conservatives as liberal! Did you know that the Washington Post editorial page was liberal? I don’t mean in 1972; I mean today. I’m sure you didn’t, because it isn’t. This is why liberals call it “Fox on 15th Street.” And then there is Thomas “Suck on this!” Friedman. And centrist Fareed Zakaria. According to Simon, if you aren’t a fire breathing conservative, you are a liberal. That is, interestingly, the conservative defintion of “liberal.” But you would think a reporter would have a more objective definition. But wait, there’s more!

Simon quotes Rudy Giuliani saying, “[H]e makes a decision and he executes it, quickly. And then everybody reacts. That’s what you call a leader!” And then he quotes Sarah Palin saying, “People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans.” And even staid old Charles Krauthammer saying, “Putin fully occupies vacuums. In Ukraine, he keeps flaunting his leverage.”

And what do we get from the “liberal” Washington Post? Only this outrageous quote:

While the United States has been retrenching, the tide of democracy in the world, which once seemed inexorable, has been receding… As Mr. Putin ponders whether to advance further—into eastern Ukraine, say—he will measure the seriousness of US and allied actions, not their statements.

There are similarly tactical statements from Fareed Zakaria and Thomas Friedman about what Obama must do. Now I may or may not agree with what all three are arguing. I’m not really interested in taking the time to read those articles. But there is no Putin idolatry in any of the these supposed liberals’ views of the situation. There isn’t even anything close to Krauthammer’s statement.

One thing I think we all like about comedy is that it takes a stand. That stand doesn’t have to agree with the listener or fit into some pre-existing ideology. But what Simon has done is madness. He’s clearly going after the the conservative “Putin’s so manly” meme. But he hedges his bet by throwing in a few quotes that have nothing to do with what he’s writing about. And it is all for the purpose of maintaining some ridiculous notion of objectivity. It’s pathetic.

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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.

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