Why Aren’t You Listening?

Following up on what seems to be the point of the week, it looks like Barack Obama’s biggest early problem may simply be that people weren’t actually listening to him during the campaign, and are now ascribing a certain mindframe or set of positions to him he’s never articulated, as well as being surprised when Obama follows through on things he actively talked about in the campaign. Take E.J. Dionne’s Washington Post column today:

What’s most striking about Obama’s approach to foreign policy is that he is less an idealist than a realist who would advance American interests by diplomacy, by working to improve the country’s image abroad, and by using military force prudently and cautiously.

This sounds a lot like the foreign policy of George H.W. Bush, and it makes perfect sense that Obama has had conversations with the senior Bush’s closest foreign policy adviser, Brent Scowcroft. Obama has drawn counsel from many in Scowcroft’s circle, and Gates himself was deputy national security adviser under Scowcroft.

What exactly is “striking” about this? I don’t really know, but that may be because I was paying attention to more than the horserace during the campaign:

Barack Obama promised that his foreign policy would be a return to what he says was the realist approach practiced by George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

“My foreign policy is actually a return to the traditional realistic policy of George Bush’s father, of John F. Kennedy, of in some ways Ronald Reagan,” he said Friday.  A voter at the town hall in Greenburg had asked Obama to respond to charges that his foreign policy was naïveThat took about 5 seconds to find on Google. In fact, not counting two articles written today (including Dionne’s) it’s the very first hit when you search “Obama and Bush 41 and foreign policy.”


What’s really bad about this, though, is that things like this should never happen in the age of Google. Obviously even the most attentive observer/commentator isn’t going to catch every single utterance made by a candidate during a campaign, but the internet lets you go back after the fact and do a bit of research before you write a WaPo Op-Ed. Indeed, if Dionne had Googled “Obama and Bush 41 and foreign policy,” the above is actually the very first result, not counting two articles published today (including Dionne’s).

On the one hand, I don’t want to be too harsh here, because Dionne s usually a pretty good writer, especially by the standards of major Op-Ed pages, but this sort of lax research before you go out and “analyze” the situation ought to just embarrass anyone, and Dionne’s next column ought to be an apology, or an explanation of why people who can’t use Google ought to be afforded column space in major newspapers.