Washington Post reporters Dana Milbank and Jonathan Weisman gave the McCain campaign a nipple-stiffening moment today after they picked up a statement by Barack Obama, and used it, apparently, entirely out of context, presenting it for the consumption of Post readers in a way that made it look like Obama was being arrogant.
For Milbank's part, it was all because he wanted to wedge the statement into his preferred frame: "Barack Obama has long been his party's presumptive nominee. Now he's becoming its presumptuous nominee." I believe it was Oscar Wilde who cautioned: "Reality is a MADE thing."
And, as it turns out, Milbank's "reality" is something of a deconstruction. Milbank's remake reads:
"This is the moment . . . that the world is waiting for," adding: "I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions."
According to a Democratic leadership aide in attendance, the full quote from Obama is:
It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign, that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It's about America. I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions.
(For what it's worth, before Milbank's column was published, we received a separate eye-witness account of Obama's meeting with House Dems that mirrored the full context quote above.)
So, in actuality, Obama was attempting to diminish his own importance, not place himself on a pedestal. It was an attempt at humility, not arrogance.
And speaking of arrogance, really - Milbank is a fine one to be speaking on the subject. Via Wonkette, we present to you this video of a slurring Milbank, pompously declaring, "I will not read blogs, I'm sorry...If something is important enough, it will be brought to my attention."
Which is just the sort of toxic nonsense you get from the high-toned clique of anointed political reporters these days, I'm afraid. Naturally, the difference between Milbank and the blogs he won't read (he's sorry!), is that Milbank is wrong.
And that's not all he gets wrong. Over the course of the article, Milbank - desperately panting - attempts to make the case that foreign travels, adherence to Capitol Hill protocol, Secret Service protection, and meeting with Cabinet officials and foreign dignitaries are all signs of "pride" and "presumptuousness," when in reality, these are the simple, entirely protean tasks that any Presidential candidate performs. McCain has done all of those things. Milbank would have a case were he to bring up the stupid "Presidential seal" the Obama campaign briefly deployed before realizing how asinine a gesture it was (and, as Ben Smith points out, the McCain campaign is no stranger to similarly inane gestures), but Milbank would rather fill his readers' heads with misleading pastry where commonplace activities take on some sort of diabolical dimension.
Worse yet, is this part of the case Milbank builds against Obama:
The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder reported last week that Obama has directed his staff to begin planning for his transition to the White House, causing Republicans to howl about premature drape measuring.
But, once again, planning for the transition in July is not something Obama is doing out of presumptuousness, he's doing it because that is what presidential nominees are supposed to do. In the summer of 2000, both George W. Bush and Al Gore did the exact same thing.
The Washington Post is located at 1150 15th Street, NW in Washington, DC, for all those interested in hand-delivering the news to Milbank, so that important things are brought to his precious and presumptuous attention.