Deconstructing Jonathan Alter’s “Five Myths about Barack Obama” in the Washington Post

Daniel J. Mitchell
Posted: Jan 24, 2012 12:01 AM

The Washington Post is a left-wing newspaper, so I’m never surprised to find examples of biased reporting.

Last month, for instance, I made fun of the Post for asserting that Germany was “fiscally conservative.”

I also mocked the Post last March, when a reporter hysterically claimed that a proposal to trim $6 billion from a $3,600 billion budget would “slash” government.

Today, I want to analyze a column by Jonathan Alter.

Entitled “Five Myths about Barack Obama,” it’s in the opinion section, where people are supposed to present a point of view.

So I’m not going to complain about bias, but I am going to disagree about some of his judgments. Here are the five supposed myths, along with my two cents on whether Alter is correct.

Myth 1. Obama is a socialist.

I basically agree with Alter. As I explained two years ago, a true socialist wants “government ownership of the means of production.” To be sure, most self-avowed socialists today have given up on that goal and instead focus on redistribution. And since Obama also is a redistributionist, I understand why people call him a socialist. Nonetheless, it is much more accurate to call him a statist or corporatist.

Myth 2. Obama is a tool of Wall Street.

Alter is right and wrong. Obama is pursuing policies that Wall Street doesn’t like, such as class-warfare tax hikes. On the other hand, he supported the TARP bailout and pushed for the Dodd-Frank bailout legislation that was supported by Goldman-Sachs and the other big players on Wall Street.

Myth 3. Obama is an effective public speaker.

I’m not sure what to say about this assertion. I don’t find his pedantic ramblings effective or persuasive, but I’m not the target audience.

Myth 4. Obama’s stimulus failed.

This is Alter’s most absurd assertion. To bolster his claim, he cites a handful of institutions that have Keynesian models, including the laughably inaccurate crowd at the Congressional Budget Office. Wow, what a revelation. Keynesians support Keynesianism. What’s next, a poll of Obama campaign staff showing that people support the President’s reelection? Read this post for a good explanation of how Keynesianism has failed.

Myth 5. Obama is a weak leader.

This isn’t my area of expertise, but I mostly agree with Alter’s assessment. For better or worse (and you know how I feel), the President put everything on the line to enact Obamacare. That was bad for the nation, but I suppose it required effective leadership.

In closing, the Washington Post does deserve some credit for having diversity on the opinion page. Yes, Alter’s column has a leftist perspective, but the paper routinely carries people like George Will, Robert Samuelson, and Charles Krauthammer.

That doesn’t excuse the Post for displaying bias in news articles, as I mentioned above, but I think it’s better than the New York Times (damning with faint praise).

Lastly, it’s worth noting that the Post’s editorials are dogmatically statist (though it does support Postal Service privatization, perhaps because that affects the paper’s bottom line).