As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, March 07, 2009

You Kids Just Don't Understand

Barack Obama, the President of the United States, with about 10,000 things to do, doesn't read blogs. That's not a big deal - he's a busy man and can have whatever reading list he wants. What may be a big deal is the almost fetishistic desire to reject certain solutions based solely on their perceived ideological moorings.

Q: Sir, we’re landing here, but what are you reading these days? What kind of newspapers do you read, do you read the clips, do you read actual papers, do you watch television?

A: Other than The New York Times?

Q: Other than The New York Times. Do you read Web sites? What Web sites do you look at?

A: I read most of the big national papers.

Q. Do you read them in clips or do you read them in the paper?

A. No, I read the paper. I like the feel of a newspaper. I read most of the weekly newsmagazines. I may not read them from cover to cover but I’ll thumb through them. You know, I spend most of my time these days reading a lot of briefings.

Q: And television? Do you watch? Web sites?

A: I don’t watch much television, I confess.

Q: And Web sites?

Q: No blogs?

A: I rarely read blogs [...]

Q: Has anybody said to you, No, sir, you can’t do that? Has there been a moment in these last six weeks where you tried to do something and somebody said, Sorry, sir, it doesn’t work that way?

A: Well, I mean, I think what we were talking about earlier in terms of Guantanamo. People didn’t have to tell me, No you can’t do that. It was simply, Well, sir, here are the challenges that we face in terms of making a decision about that. In the entire banking sector – we spend every day, myself, Rahm Emanuel, Tim Geithner, Larry Summers, Christina Romer, every single day, we will spend at least an hour of my time just talking through how we are approaching the financial markets.

And part of the reason we don’t spend a lot of time looking at blogs is because if you haven’t looked at it very carefully then you may be under the impression that somehow there’s a clean answer one way or another – well, you just nationalize all the banks, or you just leave them alone and they’ll be fine, or this or that or the other. The truth is this is a very complex set of problems and bad decisions can result in huge taxpayer expenditures and poor results.

Part of the reason I don't spend a lot of time looking at Obama's opinion on blogs is because if you haven't looked at them very carefully, you may be under the impression that somehow they all advocate a clean answer one way or another. The truth is they have offered a very complex set of opinions across the spectrum, and bad impressions can result in mass stereotyping and poor analysis.

What's at issue here is that he's not really talking about blogs, per se, so much as he is talking about critics, from the right to an extent but particularly from the left, the financial bloggers who are disappointed at the Administration's halting efforts thus far. What this suggests is that any point of view with goes ideological on the liberal side of the ledger is dismissed because of extenuating circumstances. That is a recipe for groupthink, a feedback loop where only the opinions of Geithner and Summers are respected. In particular, he namechecks blogs in relation to the banking situation, the one area where he is getting the most criticism. The reaction to criticism here is to reject the perspective of the critics because they lack information. That's just not good. Especially when the critics are experts in the field.

I've heard quite a lot of this in my time - veterans of the political scene telling me that I just don't understand the complexities and settle for simple-minded solutions. They're frequently wrong when the full accounting is done. This is a dangerous mindset, almost a bunker mentality, for the Administration to have.

Also, um, bloggers are individuals, lots of them on the left voted for the President, they have opinions, and there's simply no reason for them to be insulted by their chief executive.

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