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May 23rd, 2012
08:18 PM ET

Letters to the President #1220: 'Complicity'

Reporter's Note: President Obama is rapidly being wrapped in the sturm and drang of the election, which is already an awful lot about blame…

Dear Mr. President,

I’ve had a number of conversations lately with your political brethren (from both parties) who have invoked a pair of criticisms which are much in vogue.

First, they talk about false equivalency. They rightly complain that sometimes we journalists say things such as, “30 Congress members from one party pushed for pork projects that wasted tax money, and 2 from the other party did the same, so both parties are to blame.” The suggestion of “equal fault,” these critics say, is disingenuous and unfair.

I can’t argue. Too often we journalists take the easy road, rather than being brave and simply saying that facts show one side is more to blame than the other.

But then, these critics move on to their second point, and my agreeable nature takes a turn for the worse. As sure as I admit that Party X is more at fault on some issue, the folks from Party Y immediately insist that then absolves their crew from any complicity! This is especially troubling when the calamity or malfeasance in question could not have occurred without all that support…including the minority party’s contribution.

Look at it like this: Imagine Party X spends a whole day filling a barn with old rags and cans of gasoline. Then Party Y walks by and tosses in a match. Arguably, Party X is more to blame because they worked for hours to set up a dangerous tableau; but the catastrophe itself was caused by Party Y’s final action. So how can Party Y argue innocence?

I’m all for addressing this issue of false equivalency. But I think we need to also address the question of what I call “false innocence” which both parties periodically try to claim; because the guy who drives the getaway car is still part of the bank robbery…even if he doesn’t have a gun.

Hope all is well. Give a call if you have a moment. I’m around.

Regards,
Tom

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