Helpfully, Alter tells Dowd: Who is Barack Obama?
We wouldn’t attempt to tell you. This morning, though, in her latest column, Maureen Dowd lets Jonathan Alter explain.
Here at THE HOWLER, we just can’t help it—we’re inclined to like Jonathan Alter. But is he missing a connection between two remarks Dowd records in this passage?
DOWD (5/29/13): Like many others in our business, Jonathan Alter says he is “on fire” about the Justice Department’s snooping on reporters and attempting to criminalize investigative journalism, including labeling the respected Fox News Washington correspondent James Rosen a “co-conspirator” in a leak investigation.Weird! In that second remark, Alter says Obama “has contempt for people who don’t do their jobs.”
Alter—whose second history of the Barack Obama era, “The Center Holds,” comes out next week—is puzzled about why a former Constitutional law professor allowed such a sinister turn.
“What is it about Obama that he so disdains us?” he muses. “Presidents always hate leaks. Ronald Reagan said ‘I’ve had it up to my keister with these leaks.’ But they usually don’t act on it. Even if Obama didn’t personally sign off, people always sense by osmosis what leaders are thinking and go in that direction. His people know that leaks offend his sense of discipline and that he likes to protect his right flank by being tough on national security.
“Kennedy had been a reporter, but Obama is not friendly with the press. And he has contempt for people who don’t do their jobs, and, when you talk to the press out of school, you’re not doing your job.”
Earlier, he wonders why Obama disdains the press corps! Is Alter missing a fairly obvious possible connection between those two remarks?
The way the pundit corps does its job: In that passage, Alter, a journalist, writes a pretty good novel.
According to Alter, “[subordinates] always sense by osmosis what leaders are thinking and go in that direction.” This is meant to justify the idea that Obama “acted on” his hatred of leaks in the matter of James Rosen, even if he didn’t “personally sign off” on the things his subordinates did.
As journalism, that’s a good novel. Subordinates “always” know what the leader is thinking. And somehow, our narrator knows this!
As journalism, that’s a novel. We’re just saying, of course.