The Mainstream Press’ Response Is Not Optimal

optimal: Most favorable or desirable

—The Free Dictionary

 new commenter, N. Michael Barrows, has joined us and presented us this:

I have a question for anyone…willing to give a response. I see that The President is getting slammed this morning (10/19) for using the phrase “not optimal” last night on The Daily Show when referring to the deaths of the four Americans in Libya. Now, I’m not saying that “not optimal” is what should have been said; but my question is: Could he have said anything regarding the attack that would not have drawn the negative attention as what he did say?

My response:


Let me begin by reminding folks that it was Jon Stewart who first used that phrase. The President then incorporated it into his response to Stewart, as is rhetorically kosher. I don’t see a damn thing wrong with the way Obama used the phrase, given the question he was asked, which had to do with the administration’s initial response—response—to the tragedy in Benghazi: 

STEWART: I would say and even you would admit it was not the optimal response — at least to the American people as far as us all being on the same page. 

OBAMA: Here is what I will say: If four Americans get killed, it is not optimal. And we’re gonna fix it… 

STEWART: All of it… 

OBAMA:  All of it. And what happens during the course of a presidency, is that, you know, the government is a big operation, and at any given time, something screws up and you make that sure you find out what’s broken and you fix it.

Whatever else I have done throughout the course of my presidency, the one thing that I’ve been absolutely clear about is America’s security comes first and the American people need to know exactly how I make decisions, when it comes to war, peace, national security, and protecting Americans. And they will continue to get that over the next four years of my presidency.

Naturally, these words, which admittedly most people will never hear, were immediately ignored by not only right-wingers, but also by some mainstream news outlets. The focus, as usual, was on one word, as if one word suffices to characterize Obama’s response.

Was the President supposed to respond to Stewart’s question by saying that “it”—whatever the “it” referenced in his response—was optimal? What Obama was essentially saying, as he played off Stewart’s word, was this:

Look, Jon, four Americans died. Of course the response was not optimal.

But the larger point to make in response to your question, Michael, is this: There are those out there who parse Obama’s every statement, who interpret what he says in the worst possible light, who no matter how he answered Jon Stewart’s question, would have found grave fault with it.

What is worse than that, though, is that the mainstream press often, way too often, makes a news story out of ridiculous conservative-inspired criticism of Obama. You can turn on your TV or you can search the Internet and you will find all kinds of mainstream journalists talking and writing about this overwrought conservative response to what Obama said. This latest attack on the President’s words are just part of the larger attack against him as not being sufficiently American, of not sufficiently loving the country.

And the mainstream press ought to have learned by now to ignore this utter bullshit coming from places like Breitbart and Fox “News.” The fact that it doesn’t ignore it is what makes me so angry. This whole non-controversy demonstrates just how easily conservatives can manipulate the mainstream press. It is sickening. It is shameful.


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  1. What Duane said.


  2. writer89

     /  October 19, 2012

    What would Faux News do if they couldn’t pull Democrats’ quotes out of context? I guess all anybody can do is keep pushing back every time they do it, and tell those who are wavering in their support, “No, the President did NOT say that, stop worrying.” It’s total whack-a-mole.


  3. pablo4200

     /  October 19, 2012

    I’d just like to know how he’s going to fix 4 dead Americans.


  4. Treeske

     /  October 20, 2012

    Typical distraction from the real issues. Keep the 47% dummies’ club riled up with insignificant stuff, while we gain more and more power (the 1%rs mentality)


  5. I must admit I was genuinely puzzled at conservatives’ interest in politicizing Susan Rice’s remarks immediately after the attack. I had simply chalked her stance up to bad communication and maybe some wishful thinking because any experienced pol should know that coverups for this kind of thing are always – always – worse than the event itself, especially when all the evidence has a short fuse. By that I mean the nature of the attack itself, being with mortars and RPG’s for god’s sake, not to mention the global presence of digital cameras. But, if there had been a real coverup, the assumed motive would have been, I suppose, to deny that al Qaeda or terrorism itself had been defeated. But, and it’s a big but, nobody, least of all the President, has claimed that the world’s terrorists have been vanquished, OBL’s demise notwithstanding.

    The truth is, no matter who is resident in the Oval Office next year, terrorism will still be a concern. The young Bangladeshi who recently and stupidly got caught trying to blow up the Federal Reserve is a case in point. As long as the world is awash in religious and ethnic passions, as long as a substantial economic gap exists between haves and have-nots, and as long as we have the internet and fiery priests who preach ideologies, we will never be fully safe from individual or small groups of fanatics. The problem is the public being overly fearful about it and thus being overly vulnerable to demagoguery about it. That Mitt Romney and his party are willing to do this only increases my concerns about their judgement. And blowing up Iran, as Romney seems to want to do by “drawing a red line” sure isn’t going to reduce the population of terrorists recruits willing to die for their cause.


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