Error on WaPo Front Page, Top Left: Obama's 'Team of Moderates'

The top-left corner of the Saturday Washington Post carried the decidedly inaccurate headline "For Obama Cabinet, A Team of Moderates." Reporter Alec MacGillis asserted that Obama finished assembling "a team full of outsize personalities with overlapping jurisdictions and nominees who are known more for pragmatism than for strong leanings on the issues they will oversee." Hillary Clinton and Tom Daschle, no strong liberal leanings?

Naming Rep. Hilda Solis (lifetime American Conservative Union voting score: a tiny 2) to the Labor spot wasn’t moderate: "the daughter of a union family who has a strongly pro-labor voting record, came as a relief to some liberals who had grown slightly anxious about Obama's commitment to organized labor's agenda....But many of Obama's other picks reflect his apparent preference for practical-minded centrists who have straddled big policy debates rather than staking out the strongest pro-reform positions."

Liberals have "the strongest pro-reform positions." Can't a centrist be a reformer? The Post story stars former Bush speechwriter Peter Wehner warning about all this pragmatism as a potential problem:

"Pragmatism has its place, but there are limits, as well," said Wehner, now a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. "If you aren't anchored to a political philosophy, you get blown about, and government becomes ad hoc and you make it up as you go -- and if you're not careful, you begin to go in circles."

MacGillis featured other experts, like Paul Light (formerly with the liberal Brookings Institution) and Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists (with no liberal or left-wing label for them). They closed the article with Wehner:

Wehner, the former Bush aide, it will be hard to discern all the outlines of the Obama agenda. "They're smart, they're well-educated, they're the upper crust, but the question is, do the parts make a whole, or is the whole less than the sum of the parts?" he said of the incoming team. "As I said somewhere recently, I'd buy somebody a dinner at Le Cirque if someone could define what Obamaism is as a political philosophy. If you don't have a political North Star, you can lose your way, and I'm not sure if these people have it."

Wehner's smart and a real conservative. But is it really going to be unclear that Obama’s a liberal? From those first Executive Orders making the foreign policy safe for abortion to a move for massive health "reform," Obama may make Bill Clinton’s first two years look quite centrist. But for now, the Washington Post is using its front-page like a free advertisement, trying to sell the public of an incoming Democrats that’s way less ideological than George W. Bush.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis