I wondered when I wrote this what the reaction would tell me. Just browsing at a few of the right-wing blogs, I see that they have attacked it without actually, you know, reading it. Althouse is a classic example:If you look at my blog post, it's a reaction to the Newsweek cover, beginning with some analysis of the photograph of Obama and continuing to the question that Newsweek framed for the purpose of getting people to buy the magazine. Inside was Sullivan's article, which I did not have time to read. Not that Sullivan could know this, but we had to drive halfway across the country today. Another way of putting that is: I have a life. I can't read everything. Generally, I scan the web in the morning and find some things that feel bloggable to me. Today, it was the Newsweek cover photo and headline, and that's what I wrote about. Writing about the headline, I had the reaction that it doesn't work on me. It doesn't make me want to read. It's insulting! That is a journalistic failure by Newsweek.
I don't even want to read it. It just seems like red meat for Obama fans. And what a cliché! Republicans are stupid.Half the article is devoted to liberals and Democrats! But it would be too much for her to actually read it.
Now, quite possibly Newsweek sold the article short, and I was fair enough to Sullivan not to presume to know what he said. But he has melded his web presence — once fiercely independent and alive — to the rotting corpse that is Newsweek, and he bears some responsibility for his predicament. Judging from his blog post, I think he wants his article to be taken as a sane, sober, balanced assessment of Obama's presidency, but he has opted to wrap himself in Newsweek — how much money is that worth to him? — and doing that, he loses many of the readers he purports to mean to speak to and persuade.
But how sober and balanced is he really? I can't help noticing that in talking about me, he wasn't fair. He called me "right-wing," and yet I'm a political moderate, liberal on the social issues, and I voted for Obama.
So there I was, en route from Texas to Wisconsin, pulling in the 3G on my iPad, and I could see that I had an engraved invitation from Andrew Sullivan to read his article. I read it out loud, as Meade drove. (Meade is my husband, and — speaking of personal insults to me from Andrew Sullivan — Sullivan insulted us for deciding to marry!)
The cover really does misrepresent the article. The internal headline is: "How Obama's Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics." Note the difference between calling the critics "dumb" and saying Obama will "outsmart" his critics. Sullivan does a good job of marshaling the evidence that Obama has done a pretty good job — not that it's impossible to quibble. (Sullivan claims that Obama has "not had a single significant scandal to his name." What about Fast & Furious?!) But his central theme is that Obama has an 8-year rather than a 4-year plan, so we need to reelect him to "recapitalize him to entrench what he has done already and make it irreversible."
I know that last quote will make many of my readers think: That's exactly why we need to oust him! The changes he's made need to be reversed, and if we don't act now, it will be too late.
But maybe if you take the time to read the article, you'll agree that some of what Obama has done is admirable. It's still a separate question whether we should want 4 more years of him rather than the alternative. It might be better for the country to have Mitt Romney step in and give the Republican Party a chance to take ownership of the economy and national defense. Four years ago I saw the benefit of the Democratic Party having its turn in power after the Bush years left so many people feeling frustrated and excluded.
In short, Sullivan's article is elaborate and well articulated, but it doesn't answer all the questions, and it certainly doesn't answer the insulting and off-putting question "Why Are Obama's Critics So Dumb?" I don't expect Sullivan to address the larger journalistic question in which his career is embedded, but it's obvious that Newsweek fully intended to drag in some readers with that red-meat title, and in doing that, it knowingly repelled others like me. I'm not the slightest bit apologetic for passing over an article that didn't appeal to me. I can't read the entire internet. Like every other reader, I have to make choices about what I'm going to read, and that's a choice that must necessarily be made without reading the article.
If I choose not to read the article, must I also choose not to blog about it? Of course not. I'm careful not to say anything I can't fairly say. I don't assert that I know what's in an article I haven't read, but criticizing media, I often have very good reason to write about why I'm not reading something. I analyze covers as covers and headlines as headlines. I think that's entirely appropriate.