Two non-scandals

Jake Tapper is, as far as I’ve encountered him, both a nice guy and a competent reporter. But the pressure to produce one “gotcha” per day seems to be getting to him. He’s stepped in it twice in the past two days, once on an Obama story and once on a Clinton story. In each case, he had to manufacture controversy by grossly misinterpreting fairly straightforward remarks.

First came this silly item based on a radio interview with Barack Obama in 2001. Obama opposed the confirmation of John Ashcroft as Attorney General, and pointed out that he wasn’t opposing Bush’s Cabinet nominees at random. He said that, although he disagreed with Rumsfeld on missile defense, Rumsfeld, by contrast with Ashcroft, wasn’t “out of the mainstream.”

The headline? “Obama in 2001: Rumsfeld in the Mainstream.” And Tapper, after noting that Rumsfeld’s nomination went through unopposed (including by HRC) but that one liberal newspaper had urged its rejection, concludes breathlessly:

The underlying question that this clip raises with me is &#8212 what else is there about Obama that we don’t know about? What other clips? What other comments?

Obama is on the cusp of doing well on Super Duper Tuesday and has still never had a negative TV ad run against him, and it seems clear that Hillary Clinton is correct in her implication — he has not been fully “vetted.”

There’s a lot voters &#8212 and the media &#8212 do not know about him.

To which I can only say, “Then why not tell us?” That back in 2001 someone teaching Constitutional law opposed confirming Ashcroft but didn’t oppose confirming Rumsfeld is among the least exciting pieces of news I’m likely to hear this week. So if that meaures the size of the stories yet to come out about Obama, he must be remarkably clean and controversy-free.

But lest you might think that Tapper was in the tank for Hillary, he came up with a matching piece of foolishness aimed at Bill Clinton. And all I can say about Tapper’s explanation is: when you’re in a hole, stop digging.

No, Bill Clinton did not call for an economic slowdown as the way to deal with global warming. He pointed out that slowing production in the developed world wouldn’t do any good unless we figure out a way to combine economic development with climate protection in poor countries. And he did so in perfectly clear language:

Everybody knows that global warming is real, but we cannot solve it alone.

And maybe America, and Europe, and Japan, and Canada &#8212 the rich counties &#8212 would say, ‘OK, we just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions ’cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.’ We could do that.

But if we did that, you know as well as I do, China and India and Indonesia and Vietnam and Mexico and Brazil and the Ukraine, and all the other countries will never agree to stay poor to save the planet for our grandchildren. The only way we can do this is if we get back in the world’s fight against global warming and prove it is good economics that we will create more jobs to build a sustainable economy that saves the planet for our children and grandchildren. It is the only way it will work.

And guess what? The only places in the world today in rich countries where you have rising wages and declining inequality are places that have generated more jobs than rich countries because they made a commitment we didn’t. They got serious about a clean, efficient, green, independent energy future.

There are enough real scandals and actual gaffes to go around; no need to invent more.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: