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Obama’s Mini-Me: E.J. Dionne, a Once Must-Read Columnist

— Richard E. Vatz

In the ignominious history of politicians who used regular newspaper columnists as mouthpieces, sometimes in return for access, now comes Barack Obama and E.J. Dionne, Obama’s Mini-Me. Other presidents have had similar arrangements, including Walter Winchell and, in perhaps his only near-scandal, columnist George F. Will was accused of covertly priming presidential candidate Ronald Reagan for a debate which he (Will) then evaluated without explicitly mentioning his role as debate aide. In the ensuing years Will has never had a hint of such questionable ethics. (On the other side, we have had official mouthpieces who became traitors after leaving their positions, such as Scott McClellan, former press secretary to George W. Bush.)

Back to the previously excellent columnist Dionne, who used to be one of the best liberal newspaper observers. He credibly wrote criticisms of the left and right, albeit far more of the latter, but he was one whose intellectual honesty and lack of gratuitous nastiness and criticism in general made him a must read for liberals AND conservatives.

No more.

For about a year now, Mr. Dionne, who in columns in THE WASHINGTON POST and THE NEW REPUBLIC used to be able to find weaknesses in liberal sacred cows despite his general ideological support of them, has been unwilling to criticize Barack Obama for anything – including his relationships with the unholy three: the arrogant and evil, unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers, the odious and unrepentant Rev. Jeremiah Wright (“God Damn America”) and the simply unrepentant criminal, Tony Rezko.

In his hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck-raising WASHINGTON POST column today, “The Fighting Conciliator,” Mr. Dionne reconciles the confusion over whether President Obama is a conciliator or a fighter by saying he is both. This embarrassing “Ode to Obama” also includes a description of Obama as a man who was getting tough on the stimulus bill because he “had turned the other cheek often enough.”

Good columnists always address the strongest arguments of their opponents. No longer for Dionne…you will find no confronting of the points, for example, that some major parts of the stimulus bill are irrelevant to job creation; it would not work quickly enough; and too much of the plan represents politician-supporting pork. From Dionne’s description of President Obama’s “preacher[like] unapologetically judgmental cadences,” the reader assumes that following the president’s Biblical injunctions, He will rest.

The rest of the column is even more worshipping than the substantive first half.

If you want an honest broker in a liberal columnist, you can no longer go to the once-impressive E.J. Dionne.

A good, honest liberal mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Richard E. Vatz is professor of Rhetoric and Communication at Towson University






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