Culture War Dispatches

from a Progressive People's Republic

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

False Claim?

Media Matters Summary:

Numerous conservative radio hosts, including Chris Baker, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Jim Quinn, Michael Savage and Brian Sussman, echoed the false claim, originating on the Drudge Report, that Sen. Barack Obama said in a 2001 interview that he regretted that the Supreme Court has not addressed the redistribution of wealth. In fact, the "traged[y]" Obama identified during the interview was that the civil rights movement "became so court-focused" in trying to bring about political and economic justice.

What Obama said:

One of the, I think, the tragedies of the civil-rights movement was because the civil-rights movement became so court-focused, uh, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change.


I’m not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts.


The Supreme Court never entered into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society.

To simplify the first quote: it's a tragedy that because A happened, therefore B. The important part of the sentence is the therefore B, i.e., they didn't "bring about redistributive change." The first part demands a conclusion. It makes no sense without the second part of the sentence--there is nothing inherently tragic about becoming "court-focussed." It is tragic to Obama because they didn't achieve the aim of redistribution.

Media Matters simply ignores Obama's conclusion, misrepresenting his argument and slandering those who interpret it correctly.

Furthermore the phrase "economic justice," used by Media Matters (and Obama), is synonymous with redistribution. Their argument comes down to, Obama said nothing about redistribution. He was just talking about economic justice.

In the second and third quotes are slightly ambiguous. Out of context one might argue that, as MM claims, he never "regretted that the Supreme Court has not address the redistribution of wealth." But in conjunction with the first quote it's hard to argue that he sees "major redistributive change" as anything but positive. It's clear that Media Matters is the one making the false claim.