Friday, October 2, 2009

The White House Strikes Back

In a web-post labeled "Reality Check," the White house recently blasted Fox News for trying to "smear the Administration's effort to win the Olympics for the United States."

The White House has been attempting to stay somewhat above the fray with respect to partisan media debates about the coverage of Obama's administration, but its official website offered a blog entry this Wednesday that castigated the "fair and balanced" network for supposedly being anything but. The post specifically highlights Glenn Beck's criticisms as indicative of the network's overall "disregard for the facts" in its coverage of Obama's White House.

The White House pushes back against several things:

a) Glenn Beck's claim that Vancouver lost a billion dollars when it hosted the Olympics is dismissed as a function of the fact that Vancouver will, in fact, host its Olympics in 2010.

b) A Beck guest arguing that Chicago's city government is so fiscally irresponsible that it has to close down city-services several days every week is met with the counterclaim that Chicago will only have three reduced-service days (including Thanksgiving and Christmas) in all of 2009.

c) Beck's questions about Valerie Jarrett's financial stake in Chicago's Olympic proposal is flatly denied by maintaining that she "divested all her real estate holdings except for a single investment that has nothing to do with the Olympic bid."

Of course, Beck won't let this stand, and his defenders are most certainly marshaling evidence for their rejoinders right now. I haven't checked, they might have already launched their counterattacks. At which point, Obama's supporters will be forced to respond in kind. America's politico-cultural war is all about an irrational escalation of this rhetorical arms race.

There is certainly no Archimedean point from which to engage these issues. Not for Obama, not for any of us. We all get dragged into this partisan alley-fight, even those of us who think we can just play-dead by the electoral curb somewhere, curling our political selves into a fetal position as rabid ideologues throw wild haymakers at one another above our heads.

Could it be possible that, say, Valerie Jarrett will get even richer as a function of Chicago succeeding to win the Olympic games? Probably. As will Chicago's "haves" on the other side that supposedly firewalled-off political aisle. Elites from both parties lie when they maintain that the other side corners the market on any self-interested implications of the work they perform in the public sphere. There are legitimate cases to be made about when such self-serving consequences cross the line, ethically speaking, but is there a point when the wildly partisan discourse that constitutes our political bathwater gets so dirty that the baby might not be able to survive? As professors, is there any way to teach our students to see the potential political ramifications of our social and cultural choices/beliefs without forcing them to gulp down the swill from that same filthy tub?

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