He’s oh-so-dismissive of John Derbyshire for overreacting to an Obama national service plan that (in Smith’s words) “is, whatever its merits, voluntary”. His commenters pile on. Meanwhile, Smith completely misses the actual news of the day on the subject, namely that the Obama transition team’s Change.gov website flatly endorsed a mandatory, not voluntary plan, and then silently edited (and later yanked) its language when bloggers noticed. How misleading is it to describe Derbyshire as reacting to a voluntary plan when he was quite patently reacting to the sudden prospect of a mandatory one? And Andrew Sullivan was unfair and misleading in the same way.
Ben Smith writes for one of the hottest news operations around, which means he’s well situated to start digging for questions you’d think almost any reporter would want to ask about this episode: who drafted or approved the first version, the one that got edited before being yanked? Was it some staffer misinformed about the genuine thinking of the Obama team, which would make the later editing a relatively conventional (if covert) effort to correct a mistake? Or did the language reflect actual thinking that the Obama team has not yet seen fit to share with the public? I certainly hope it was the former and am by no means ready to jump to the latter conclusion. But wouldn’t it be nice if our press corps took an interest in shedding light on such questions? (& welcome Coyote readers).