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Tapper Gets It Right

Eschews neutrality for truth on Boehner-Obama-Israel flap
May 13, 2008

Good for Jake Tapper of ABC News, for handling the fake controversy over Obama’s recent comments on Israel in exactly the right way.

Here’s what happened. In an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, Obama was asked whether “Israel is a drag on America’s reputation overseas.” He responded:

No, no, no. But what I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore, does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of a resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions, and so we have a national-security interest in solving this, and I also believe that Israel has a security interest in solving this because I believe that the status quo is unsustainable.

It should be clear to anyone with basic reading comprehension skills that the “constant sore” Obama refers to is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not Israel itself.

Nonetheless, House Republican Leader John Boehner put out a statement saying:

Israel is a critical American ally and a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, not a ‘constant sore’ as Barack Obama claims.

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Given the mainstream media’s tendency toward false even-handedness, we might have expected this to be reported neutrally, under a headline like: “Boehner Attacks Obama Over Israel Comments.”

Instead, Tapper posted an item on his ABC News blog last night under the admirably straightforward headline: “House Republican Leader Twists Obama Statement on Israel.” His post begins:

In an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., talked a great deal about Israel. He was rather effusive in his support for the Jewish state.
Apparently given nothing of substance to criticize, House Republican leaders then took a statement Obama made and twisted it to act as if the Democrat had insulted the Jewish state. Which he had not.

Tapper then went on to lay out the facts of the case, concluding:

When Obama twisted Sen. John McCain’s “100 Years” comment, it was pretty dishonest as well. [We agree.] But this may be worse, because Boehner et al are falsely accusing Obama of besmirching a nation and a people. They are accusing him of being anti-Israel, even anti-Semitic. It is false.

Tapper’s post serves as a model for how the media should handle these efforts by both parties to generate phony controversies. Here’s hoping it starts a trend.

Zachary Roth is a contributing editor to The Washington Monthly. He also has written for The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Slate, Salon, The Daily Beast, and Talking Points Memo, among other outlets.