In the wake of the Blagojevich scandal, plenty of media types have worked hard to whip up a seamy role for President-elect Barack Obama to have played in the matter. Matt Yglesias describes the new rules of engagement, which are the old rules of engagement: a standard-free stream of hot air that needs no evidence or original reporting to survive. But as bad as it's been, nothing quite exceeds the ridiculously hyperbolic false equivalence drawn by Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman.
See, Steve Chapman is really chafed at the adjectives used by Obama to describe the Blago scandal. When he first reacted to the news, remember, Obama said he was "saddened," which was not good enough to satisfy the pseudopsychological semanticists that skulk in the same trails as legitimate reporters. No, no: "saddened" just wasn't going to cut it. Two days later, Obama told a reporter, "I was appalled and disappointed by what we heard in those transcripts." And in this perceived two-day delay between "saddened" and "appalled" is where Chapman gets the grist for his idiot mill.
The reaction from fellow Illinois Democrats was swift and severe. Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn demanded that the governor step aside. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin urged the legislature to call a special election to fill the Senate seat. Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan proposed to ask the Supreme Court to temporarily disqualify the governor from carrying out his duties (and later did it).
But Obama had a "My Pet Goat" moment, freezing up in the face of the shock. "I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment on the issue at this time," he said. "It's a sad day for Illinois." You'd have thought the Bears had failed to make the playoffs.
Leaving aside the fact that the "swift, severe" responses from all named above are bloodless and procedural responses, is it anywhere within the realm of reason to call Obama's reaction a "My Pet Goat moment?" I'll remind you that this references the time President George W. Bush went back to reading a children's story after learning that the nation was under an unfolding terrorist attack. Must anyone entertain a writer who believes this tawdry Blagojevich matter rises to the level of 9/11?
I'm sure I'll feel like a real jerk, criticizing Chapman, when he reveals to me the smoldering hole in Chicago filled with a thousand corpses.