Daniel W. Drezner

Could bloggers please read the whole thing before they blog, please?

It is not a shock for readers to learn that  I think blogs have been a great innovation for the information ecosystem.  That said, I’ve come across two examples in the past 24 hours where bloggers have really let down the guild — because they blogged before reading through to the end.    Example #1:  Brad DeLong, ...

It is not a shock for readers to learn that  I think blogs have been a great innovation for the information ecosystem.  That said, I’ve come across two examples in the past 24 hours where bloggers have really let down the guild — because they blogged before reading through to the end.   

Example #1:  Brad DeLong, "Joshua Green Doesn’t Get How Government Works.": 

Joshua Green:

Yes, Larry Summers is Leaving: Summers cast his eye on the Fed chairmanship and agreed to bide his time until Ben Bernanke’s term ended at the NEC–a staff position well below his old job as Clinton’s Treasury secretary…

"Below." "Above." Joshua Green is old enough to know that whether the Secretary of the Treasury is "above" or "below" the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy really depends on the people and on the President….

The rule is that with a President who is weak–or uninterested in economic policy–or when the Chairs of House Banking, Senate Banking, Senate Finance, and House Ways-and-Means are strong, then the Treasury Secretary is the more powerful position. But with a President who is strong and interested in economic policy, the Assistant to the President is the higher-ranking job.

This is an old, old story….

Over the generations, face-time with the king is what matters for power. (emphasis added)

DeLong makes a fair point here — face time can be really important sometimes.  The thing is, Green tackled the "face-time" question head-on in his original story about Larry Summers

As Jonathan Alter lays out in his forthcoming book, "The Promise," Summers maneuvered to sideline people like Paul Volcker, Joe Stiglitz, and even Orszag, behavior more characteristic of the Clinton administration than the Obama administration. Alter also reveals that Obama’s nickname for Summers is "Dr. Kevorkian," which does not imply paternal fondness.

But what really makes me believe that Summers won’t stick around is that all this Machiavellian intrigue has failed to win him what he wanted most: power. Summers gets plenty of presidential face time, but he’s not the nexus of White House activity that everyone expected him to be, and that doesn’t sit well according to the Summers associates I spoke with. In my Atlantic piece, I go into considerable detail about how Geithner, and not Summers, came to be the key person on financial matters. But it wasn’t just finance. Energy and health care care were also routed elsewhere, to Carol Browner and Nancy Ann DeParle. The hand-holding of anxious lawmakers that became an integral part of the NEC job under Summers’s mentor, Bob Rubin, is being handled by another economist, Mark Zandi, a former McCain adviser. Marc points out that Summers does "ride herd over the administration’s infrastructure renewal program." But I’d wager that infrastructure renewal is not what Larry Summers pictured for himself when he arrived at the White House.  (emphasis added)

Green clearly thinks that face time is important — it’s just that Summers appears to have a limited ability to converty that face-time into actual policy responsibility.  DeLong can dispute that assertion — but he can’t assert, as he blogged, that Green is somehow naive about the way Washington works.  Based on that paragraph, he seems better clued in than DeLong. 

Example #2:  Conservative bloggers on this AP story about the Obama administration’s provisional changes to the National Security Strategy.  The story leads with the following:

President Barack Obama’s advisers will remove religious terms such as "Islamic extremism" from the central document outlining the U.S. national security strategy and will use the rewritten document to emphasize that the United States does not view Muslim nations through the lens of terror, counterterrorism officials said.

The change isa significant shift in the National Security Strategy, a document that previously outlined the Bush Doctrine of preventative war and currently states: "The struggle against militant Islamic radicalism is the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century."

As you can imagine, there are a fair number of conservative bloggers lashing out at this story.  Andy McArthy calls it "willful blindness."    Michelle Malkin concludes, "We’ve traded in a reality-based national security strategy for a Birkenstock bumper-sticker fantasy plan." 

Fine, except that if you read the whole AP story, you discover that the origins of the "Birkenstock bumper-sticker fantasy plan" are… Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush: 

Obama’s speechwriters have taken inspiration from an unlikely source: former President Ronald Reagan. Visiting communist China in 1984, Reagan spoke to Fudan University in Shanghai about education, space exploration and scientific research.

He discussed freedom and liberty. He never mentioned communism or democracy.

"They didn’t look up to the U.S. because we hated communism," said Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, Obama’s foreign policy speechwriter.

Like Reagan in China, Obama in Cairo made only passing references to terrorism. Instead he focused on cooperation….

Obama did not invent Muslim outreach. President George W. Bush gave the White House its first Quran, hosted its first Iftar dinner to celebrate Ramadan, and loudly stated support for Muslim democracies like Turkey….


Hughes and Juan Zarate, Bush’s former deputy national security adviser, said Obama’s efforts build on groundwork from Bush’s second term, when some of the rhetoric softened. But by then, Zarate said, it was overshadowed by the Guantanamo Bay detention center, the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison and a prolonged Iraq war.

"In some ways, it didn’t matter what the president did or said. People weren’t going to be listening to him in the way we wanted them to," Zarate said. "The difference is, President Obama had a fresh start."

I’m not saying that this strategy will work — but Malkin and McArthy don’t seem to realize that they’re saying that Reagan and Bush were Birkenstrock-wearers as well. 

FP’s own Peter Feaver is quoted in the AP story as a skeptic, and I think he makes a fair point.  Over at the Corner, Michael Rubin looked at the same story and suggested flaws in the administration’s argument.   I’m only partially convinced by Rubin’s argument — but it’s clear that at least Rubin read the whole AP story before blogging about it. 

Seriously, read the whole thing before blogging it. 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and the author of Theories of International Politics and Zombies. His latest book is The Toddler in Chief. Twitter: @dandrezner

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