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Burka and the Spin Machines

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Give Paul Burka, the Texas Monthly political blogger, credit for one thing: The man sure knows how to fire up a comment thread.

Yesterday, Burka ridiculed the Lone Star Project for claiming “Texas Democrats have filed their strongest slate of candidates in years.” As one commenter noted, you’d hardly expect a pro-Democratic PAC to say otherwise, even if the party were running a bunch of armadillos and yellow dogs—and certainly they couldn’t be expected, as Burka suggested, to say “nothing” about the very candidates they’re pushing. But Burka offered no quarter: “I know it’s nonsense, and everybody who reads it knows it’s nonsense,” he snarled. (See my different view here.)

If poking fun at Texas Democrats’ rare burst of optimism wasn’t enough to get those comments rolling in, Burka leapt into the thread with some similarly pointed comments about President Obama. Burka pronounced Obama’s year-old presidency ineffective, and then elaborated thusly:

“Democratic members are retiring everywhere you look, Obama’s legislative program is in shambles, the Republican party is resurgent, he waits several days before commenting on the attempt to blow up the plane. I don’t think we should be surprised by this. He ran on “hope” and “change” and he has no experience of working on major issues. He wasn’t ready to be president. I’m not a big Hillary fan, but she would have been ready to be president from day one. Obama wasn’t.”

Lordy, lordy: Where to begin? With a comparison to the presidential “readiness” of an Arkansas governor in 1993, perhaps, or a Texas governor in 2001? With the fact that Burka, who predicted Obama would lose, still can’t get Hillary’s “from day one” campaign line out of his head?

No, too easy. To borrow his term, the most “ridiculous” part of Burka’s blast at Obama is that business about waiting “several days before commenting on the attempt to blow up the plane.” Maybe Obama should have spoken sooner. But this was an attempt, thank God, not a horrifically successful act of terror. And Obama’s ultimate response (“a screw-up that could have been disastrous”) was thoughtful, tough and bracingly honest—just the kind of thing people elected him for. Even Clark Kent Irvin, a former Bush homeland-security official, called the president’s reaction “spot-on.”

“Paul, this is right out of Fox News,” an anonymous commenter noted on BurkaBlog.

In fact, Burka’s criticism did jibe cozily with the Fox/GOP spinbook. On Dec. 28 on Fox’s Hannity, Karl Rove had this exchange with guest host Tucker Carlson:

“CARLSON: This President was not notified until three hours after this incident became known. Is that a long time? It seems like a long time.”

“ROVE: Look, they woke him up immediately to tell him he won the Nobel Prize but couldn’t bother to interrupt his vacation for three hours to tell him a terrorist tried to bring down a plane on Christmas Day. And the President waits 72 hours before we hear from him, and it’s over 72 hours from the time of the incident to the time that the President spoke today, and then the President said some things that are simply not true.”

(Check out the video here.)

The right-wing repetition machine picked up on the latest Obama-bash and cynically used the 72-hour delay as further evidence of the president’s squishiness when it comes to combatting terrorists.

But the great terror-fighter himself, Rove’s buddy George W., was even slower at Christmastime in 2001 to speak about “shoe-bomber” Richard Reid’s attempt to blow up a jet bound for Miami. It took Rove’s man six days to say anything (and then very little) about Reid’s foiled terror attack—at a time when Americans were far more jittery about terrorism in the wake of 9/11.

a commenter pointed this out, Burka became uncharacteristically restrained and failed to respond. Maybe he didn’t have an answer. Maybe he was embarrassed. Maybe he was momentarily distracted by Glenn Beck. But for someone who started his post by criticizing Democratic spin, this little kerfuffle was mighty ironic to say the least.