September 11, 2013

Politico’s Budoff Brown Offers Obama Speech Translation Service: ‘What President Obama Said, What He Meant’

Apparently we can’t grasp the full brilliance and nuance of Barack Obama’s speeches without having someone from the establishment press telling us what he really meant to say when he said what he really said.

That’s the impression one gets from reading “What President Obama said, what he meant” early Wedesday at the Politico. In it, along with an accompanying video dedicated to the same idea, we see Carrie Budoff Brown’s exercise in explaining Obama’s 15-minute speech on Syria to the ignormamuses of the world. Her weakest translation concerns the extent to which Obama apparently assumed he’d automatically have support from the vast majority of Republicans, apparently because, as the web site’s equally surprised Alex Isenstadt and Reid Epstein also believed two days ago (“‘Party of Hawks,’ Has Gone ‘Dovish’”), they just love to go to war for any reason, no matter how incoherent or unplanned. That passage follows the jump:

President Barack Obama sought Tuesday to clear away 10 days of confusion surrounding his Syria strategy.


But what looked on the surface to be a sober policy speech also included some unmistakable political messages.

Here’s a guide to what he said — and what he meant.

What he said: And so to my friends on the right, I ask you to reconcile your commitment to America’s military might with the failure to act when a cause is so plainly just.

What he meant: Hypocritical Republicans, you supported intervention before you opposed it.
Translation: The White House knew the president’s attempt to seek congressional approval wouldn’t be easy.

But aides acknowledge that they underestimated the extent to which Republicans who advocated for intervention days or weeks before Obama’s announcement would flip so quickly and oppose the president’s plan.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) made statements over the last two years that led the White House to believe that they would support the type of action that Obama had sought. But each senator came out against the resolution.

Two obvious thoughts.

First, six senators making “statements” does not make for a majority, let alone a near complete consensus. I wonder how much discussion, if any, there was with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about the outlook of party members?

Second, it’s one thing to say “we need to do something” about Syria, and another to evaluate what the President is actually planning to do about Syria. There are plenty of indications that the “plan” (a generous term) the administration has wasn’t fully vetted by the military before its presentment to congressmen and senators. Who would be so naive as to the believe that the other party would go along without this obvious prerequisite completed?

But to the larger point of Budoff Brown’s translation exercise — If we need a Politico reporter to tell us what the President really meant, then there’s obviously a problem with what the President is saying.

I don’t recall a Republican president who needed such “help” from an establishment press outlet. Instead, what has happened during Repbulican presidencies is that reporters have struggled mightily to read into what they have said to divine meanings which were never there.

Both in the video and the text, Budoff Brown also tells us that Obama is claiming credit for the perceived improvements of the past few days, and that they didn’t come from an offhand remark from John Kerry (“Obama sought to convey Tuesday that the breakthrough wasn’t just luck”). Readers here probably already know that’s exactly why the situation changed.

Cross-posted at


1 Comment

  1. And so to my friends on the right, I ask you to reconcile your commitment to America’s military might with the failure to act when a cause is so plainly just.

    Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war. Come on Republicans you can smell the raw meat, I know you want to… That is the extent of pandering Obama
    is willing to do to the right by using the dog whistle. That might work for McRino but it doesn’t work for us.

    The purpose of military might is to defend us and our allies against aggressors not go on a holy crusade of your invention when you’re having a Don Quixote moment. We didn’t intervene in the Sudan over Dafur, we didn’t intervene in Rwanda when the Hutu were committing genocide against the Tutsi and nor did we intervene when Russia did a land grab in Georgia.

    Obama has gotten use to having drones do all his dirty work and forgets there is a line between covert and overt military action.

    Comment by dscott — September 11, 2013 @ 3:31 pm

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