Frank Rich writes today:
Obama was already wobbling toward another “compromise” in which he does most of the compromising. It’s a measure of how far he’s off his game now that a leader who once had the audacity to speak at length on the red-hot subject of race doesn’t even make the most forceful case for his own long-held position on an issue where most Americans still agree with him….. Etc.
Since I wrote a column in this space and then the New Republic, called President Obama: I love You, but You Need to Raise Your Game, which included some of the same points and figures, along with the lines:
…this episode illustrates the periodic preemptive surrenders that are frustrating to the President’s closest supporters. It’s disappointing not to win key items such as the public option. It’s a lot more demoralizing when progressives sense that we dither, when we negotiate with ourselves, when we allow rather popular positions undercut by moderate and conservative Democrats. Before we know it, we’ve lost things that are important to us without getting anything in return, without even a clear and compelling defense of what should be core Democratic positions.
I was irritated. Especially as a not-so-famousnik in the writing game, I’m sensitive about such things, but then I started to think about it, and two things came to mind.
First, I realized that other commentators–Jonathan Chait, Jonathan Cohn, Steve Benen, Jonathan Zasloff, and others–could make equal or greater claims on this particular column. For some reason, my own writings come to mind more readily and with a greater sense of grievance than did the writings of these others. Yet of course my own column was, itself, not especially original in this mix.
Second, I realized that top-drawer op-ed columnists–Frank Rich, Maureen Dowd, and others–are often de facto opinion aggregators. Some fraction of their work amounts to processing and re-processing with greater reach, and certainly in Rich’s case with conspicuous verve and skill, ideas and arguments that are already freely circulating in the blogosphere, among issue advocates, and elsewhere.
It’s bad that other people’s stuff sometimes gets snagged along the way with varying degrees of moral or institutional culpability. It’s a good thing in the sense that the blogosphere fuels the broader conversation with ideas that don’t really originate with a clear author, anyway.
Postscript: I was being oblique with my reference to the availability heuristic. The ideas in my column, and then Rich’s, are floating around the blogosphere. I was irritated by the superficial resemblance to one piece–by me, naturally–but that is the nature of the game. While I find Rich’s article pretty unoriginal–read my piece and then his–no I do not think it was plagiarized from my, um, estimable oevre.