To Partisan readers who are most interested in local affairs, I apologize for yet another diversion into international waters. But don’t blame me. Blame Charles Krauthammer.
Like most people, I tend to read the writings of people I admire or those whose work I enjoy. Therefore, I don’t usually read Krauthammer’s column. Kind of wishing now that I hadn’t read his latest.
The problem isn’t so much what he had to say. The column bashes President Obama for being, in the columnist’s view, a weakling when it comes to facing down terrorists. I’m no expert on presidents or terrorists so I’m not going to pass judgment on whether his ISIS strategy is the best it could be.
The problem is the cheap trick Krauthammer used to get his message across. He was writing about Obama’s news conference this week in Turkey. He started by complaining that the president didn’t display enough passion and anger while denouncing ISIS and didn’t use the term “radical Islam,” as though that would turn some tide.
Then the columnist tried to pull a fast one, writing,
“Obama defended his policy by listing its multifaceted elements. Such as, ‘I hosted at the United Nations an entire discussion of counterterrorism strategies and curbing the flow of foreign fighters.’ An ‘entire’ discussion, mind you. Not a partial one. They tremble in Raqqa.”
He went on, completing his accounting of the president’s strategy by quoting Obama as saying “’We have mobilized 65 countries to go after ISIL’”
“Yes,” Krauthammer mockingly continued, “and what would we do without Luxembourg?”
In fact, Obama offered details of his strategy and examples of its successes. They may not have been great examples but Krauthammer’s piece would have approached honesty if he had at least mentioned them rather than acting as though they did not exist.
The point, patient readers, is that Krauthammer, who presumably had to apply for his job at the Washington Post and presumably could have afforded to buy a complete transcript, cherry-picked the president’s smallest points rather than his largest.
At the news conference, Obama went on at some length about the sky attack against ISIS and about this nation’s efforts at coalition building in this fight. The reporters at the session have received a fair amount of criticism for not asking him more detailed questions designed to elicit more specifics, but Obama demonstrated little reluctance to say more. Obama droned on and on, pun intended, but Krauthammer apparently was looking only for potential gotcha moments, not for illumination.
It is a strength of good debaters, and good opinion columnists, to address their opponents’ strongest arguments, not their weakest. Certainly there is no rule against scoffing at a relatively minor point for effect, but that should come only after a good faith to dissect the major points.
Krauthammer failed his readers, something I suspect he does with some frequency (I am not sure how often he is to published). Now that I am onto him, I’ll be on the lookout for additional examples.