AP’s Nedra Pickler Has Obama’s Back

It now appears, as predicted by yours truly two weeks ago today, that Hillary Clinton will not be our next president, and that Barack Obama is going to be Democratic Party's presidential nominee.

This means that it must be time for Old Media to start playing robust defense on his behalf.

Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press got Old Media off to a "great" start in that regard this morning, as she linked criticism of Obama's patriotism strictly to conservatives, rewrote the history of the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry, played a game of misdirection regarding the candidate's failure to put his hand over his heart during the national anthem, and made excuses for Michelle Obama's quarter-century gap in her pride in being an American.

Pickler's report, entitled "Conservatives Say Obama Lacks Patriotism," starts thusly:

Sen. Barack Obama's refusal to wear an American flag lapel pin along with a photo of him not putting his hand over his heart during the National Anthem led conservatives on Internet and in the media to question his patriotism.

Now Obama's wife, Michelle, has drawn their ire, too, for saying recently that she's really proud of her country for the first time in her adult life.

Conservative consultants say that combined, the cases could be an issue for Obama in the general election if he wins the nomination, especially as he runs against Vietnam war hero Sen. John McCain.

"The reason it hasn't been an issue so far is that we're still in the microcosm of the Democratic primary," said Republican consultant Roger Stone. "Many Americans will find the three things offensive. Barack Obama is out of the McGovern wing of the party, and he is part of the blame America first crowd."

The "conservative consultants" are smart enough to know that you don't have to be a conservative to take umbrage at the Obamas' statements and actions. But Pickler insists on tying criticisms of the couple to conservatives alone.

Here's Pickler's rewrite of the John Kerry/Swift Boat situation:

Opponents of Sen. John Kerry proved in the 2004 election that voters are sensitive to suggestions that a candidate is not sufficiently patriotic. The Democratic presidential nominee's campaign was torpedoed by critics of his Vietnam War record called the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, even though he won multiple military honors and was lauded by his superiors.

The Swift Boat campaign started as a relatively small television ad buy that exploded into an issue that dogged Kerry for months. The Massachusetts senator has conceded since losing to President Bush that the campaign and his lackluster response to unsubstantiated allegations he considered unworthy of a reaction likely cost him the election. And the term even became part of the campaign lexicon — swift boating.

Too bad Pickler doesn't note the correct definition of "swift boating," which is usually presented as one word (graphic obtained from Michelle Malkin's site; original author unknown):

Swifts

The Swifts' allegations, in fact, were far from "unsubstantiated." With very rare and relatively insignificant exceptions, the allegations of the Swifts' stand unrefuted.

Here's just one example of a rock-solid Swifts' claim: John Kerry, if he even did spend "Christmas in Cambodia," was NOT there when Richard Nixon was president, as he has claimed several times was "seared" into his memory. The Christmas in question was 1968, which was a month before Nixon was even inaugurated (Kerry's claim refers to a statement Nixon allegedly made at the time but could not possibly have made until after being inaugurated, that the US had no troops in Cambodia).

More important, Pickler totally ignored Kerry's false statements about the scope of atrocities committed by American soldiers in Vietnam, his heavy involvement in presenting and trumping up war atrocity stories in testimony before Congress as head of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and his unauthorized meeting with North Vietnamese officials during wartime -- all critical elements in the SwiftVets' compelling case against him becoming commander-in-chief.

How about the no-hand-over-the-heart incident? Pickler engages in classic misdirection, and fails to address the underlying issue:
Last summer, Obama was photographed by Time magazine at an event in Iowa standing with his hands folded during the national anthem.

..... It has been repeatedly reported that the moment came during the Pledge of Allegiance, but that's not the case.

Really clever, Nedra. That's not the topic. What about what Obama actually did or didn't do during the anthem?

Martin Finkelstein at NewsBusters was among those who correctly noted that the photograph involved was taken during the national anthem, and explained the significance of the incident:

During rendition of the national anthem when the flag is displayed, all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. Men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. -- United States Code, Title 36, Chapter 10, Sec. 171

The real "point," Nedra, is that Obama wasn't doing what most Americans instinctively do during the national anthem. The Obama campaign's response ("Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn't [put his hand on his heart]. In no way was he making any sort of statement, and any suggestion to the contrary is ridiculous") attaches no significance to the fact that what he did was a more-than-minor breach of etiquette, and offers no apology for having committed it.

Regarding Michelle Obama's statement, that "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm proud of my country" (video here), Pickler let Obama's weak defense of his wife's statement stand:

Barack Obama has expressed frustration that his wife's remarks had been taken out of context and turned into political fodder — both the Obamas say she was talking about politics in the United States, not the country itself.

Since Ms. Obama, 44, did not qualify her statement when she made it, it shouldn't be surprising that many people, and not just "conservatives," see her statement as a let-down-her-guard moment revealing a fundamental truth about her "adult lifetime" of 26 years. Pickler simply accepted Barack Obama's distracting excuse for his wife's statement without challenge.

Look for more Old Media reporters to have Obama's back in the coming months. I suspect that the candidate and his wife will keep them very busy.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.