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Please, Let's Cut Major Garrett the Same Slack for Demonizing That We Cut for President Obama


It must be nice to be able to falsely deride your opponents without anyone being allowed to do the same to you.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 18: U.S. President Barack Obama pauses as he makes a statement regarding the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, June 18, 2015 at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Authorities have arrested 21-year-old Dylann Roof of Lexington County, South Carolina, as a suspect in last night's deadly shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine people. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

While defending the recent deal on Iran’s nuclear program, President Barack Obama chastised CBS News’ Major Garrett for what Obama saw as a derisive question.

Noting that the deal didn’t address the four AmericansSaeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, Robert Levinson, and Jason Rezaian – being held by Iran, Garret asked:

Can you tell the country, sir, why you are content, with all the fanfare around this deal, to leave the conscience of this nation and the strength of this nation unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans?

Obama retorted:

I got to give you credit, Major, for how you craft those questions. The notion that I am content as I celebrate with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails -- Major, that’s nonsense, and you should know better. I’ve met with the families of some of those folks. Nobody is content. And our diplomats and our teams are working diligently to try to get them out.

So, was Garrett’s question really out of line?

It comes down to the ambiguity of the word “content,” which has at least a couple of different senses. There’s the sense in which “I am content to sip iced tea while laying in a hammock and watching 'Game of Thrones,'” versus “I am content to default on my credit card while I pay my rent.” Being content in the former sense involves being happy, while the latter is just making the best of a bad situation.

If Garrett meant the president was “content” in the latter sense, then he’s right: Obama made clear that he’d decided it was better not to include the Americans detained by Iran in the nuclear negotiations. If “content” meant happy, though, then Garrett was clearly in the wrong.

[sharequote align="center"]Debating is fun when you’re allowed to demonize others but they’re not allowed to do the same to you[/sharequote]

So which was it? I honestly don’t know, I don’t think anyone else does, and at this point probably no one’s going to take Garrett at his word if he says he didn’t intend to be derisive.

But, for all the criticizing and prodding of Garrett, notice that – even on the worst interpretation of his remarks – he did something that Obama does on a regular basis. Obama routinely demonizes his opponents, suggesting that they intentionally want to do (or even take glee in doing) something wrong. And he typically gets away with it.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Just to highlight a few examples:

Obama has often suggested that Republicans put the needs of the country second to the needs of their own party.

On the issue of voter identifcations, Obama says that Republicans want to keep people from exercising their right to vote, rather than casting the debate as one over the best way to prevent fraud without disenfranchising legitimate voters.

In 2008, Obama flagrantly misrepresented Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), saying McCain was OK with the U.S. having 100 years of war in Iraq, when of course McCain said no such thing.

More generally, when spelling out the difference between Democrats and Republicans, Obama has insisted that Democrats believe in “accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations,” that Democrats “have a sense of neighborliness and a sense of community,” whereas Republicans apparently don’t.

Over and over and over again, Obama has said that Republicans and conservatives believe in “Social Darwinism,” an idea that “doesn’t require much thought or ingenuity” because it basically just tells the needy, “tough luck, you’re on your own.” This is despite the fact that Republicans and conservatives are supporters of private charity (and government aid, as well, just at lower levels than Democrats support).

Now, whenever Obama is accused of being a socialist or unpatriotic, he bristles. Apparently, it’s not fair to derisively misrepresent Obama the way he derisively misrepresents others. The president says he’s really enjoying the debate on Iran, and who can blame him? Debating is fun when you’re allowed to demonize others but they’re not allowed to do the same to you.

My preference for fixing this double-standard would be for the media to start being as tough on Obama as they’ve been on Garrett. If that’s not going to happen, then why can’t they cut Garrett half the slack that’s repeatedly cut for Obama?

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