Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Chamberlain in Moscow

Being on a road trip, we’ll take what papers we can get. And today that means The New York Times.

Just last week in “Nobel Freakonomics” we mentioned the Times in a less-than-flattering light—i.e. that we haven’t been reading it for serious news since the publisher decided to cut costs by outsourcing the Times’ newsroom to the White House.

It was an off-hand joke. But apparently that’s exactly what happened, judging by what passes for today’s story on the Moscow summit.

“Obama Resets Ties to Russia, but Work Remains.”

That’s the headline, parroting directly the administration’s ceaseless ‘Reset Button’ yammering about everything it has been trying to disinherit from George Bush. Still, since that apparently didn’t sound upbeat enough to the White House, the Times adds a more pleasant, editorial-style subheading:

“A Trip Brings Progress but Fissures Persist.”

How, exactly, did this trip bring “progress” you wonder? Reading the story itself, the “progress” is unclear. Here’s how the Times describes it—and we are not making this up—in paragraph two:

But while Mr. Obama and President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia declared a reconciliation, they did so partly by agreeing to disagree on important issues and by selectively interpreting the same words in sharply different ways.

Substitute “Chamberlain” for “Obama” and “Hitler” for Medvedev,” and the Times might be describing what happened in Munich back in 1938.

But the Times does not stop with that howler, because it apparently did not suit the White House editor. How else to interpret the apparently thin-skinned Michael McFaul, Obama’s point man on Russia who told the reporters, quote/unquote:

“I dare you to think of a summit that was so substantive.”

Apparently, none of the reporters dared think of Reagan/Gorbachev.

In any event, the Times did not get to the verge of Chapter 11 by letting facts get in the way of its own, narrow-minded world-view, and since the headline promised “Progress,” the reporter gives us progress:

…the two leaders agreed to slash strategic nuclear arsenals, resume military contacts suspended after the war with Georgia and open an air corridor across Russia for up to 4,500 flights of United States troops and weapons to Afghanistan each year.

Of these three, the first is a no-brainer for both sides; the second is a clear win for Putin, who gets to “reset” things to where they were before he invaded Georgia; and the third, while nominally a victory for Obama, is even better for Putin: who wouldn’t want to let us fight a war his own country demonstrated could not be won?

What other signs of “progress” came out of the summit that we are “dared” to question? Again, we making nothing up:

Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev announced an agreement to open a joint early-warning center to share data on missile launchings. But Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris N. Yeltsin announced the same agreement in 1998. Mr. Clinton then announced it again with President Vladimir V. Putin in 2000. Mr. Putin and President George W. Bush recommitted to it as recently as 2007.

And none of them ever actually built the center.

Wordsmithing aside, what you really need to know about the event might just as easily be summed up in the photograph of Putin and Obama at the top of the story.

Obama, back to the camera, is leaning earnestly towards Putin, who sits, legs open, with about as blank a look on his face as any ex-KGB agent ever held in any meeting with any President of any country. He looks like the same Vladimir Putin whose eyes George Bush once looked into and declared he had seen the man's non-existent “soul.”

It is no wonder the Times buried this description of the two men’s meeting well off the front-page:

Their breakfast ran two hours, and Mr. Putin spent the first half in a virtually uninterrupted monologue about Russia’s view of the world, aides said afterward.

Substitute “Hitler” for Putin, and once again you’re describing Munch.

Reset? Sounds more like the computers crashed.

Ah, where’s a New York Post when you need it?

Jeff Matthews

I Am Not Making This Up

© 2009 NotMakingThisUp, LLC

The content contained in this blog represents the opinions of Mr. Matthews. Mr. Matthews also acts as an advisor and clients advised by Mr. Matthews may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Matthews’ recommendations. This commentary in no way constitutes investment advice. It should never be relied on in making an investment decision, ever. Nor are these comments meant to be a solicitation of business in any way: such inquiries will be ignored. This content is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author.


Anonymous said...

The New York Times: All the News That's Print to Fit...

mistere said...

Frankly it is shameful of Obama to make this statement. The US is the reason the Cold war ended. None of the other things would have happened without US leadership, sprearheaded originally by Ronald Reagan then others. ---
“The Cold War reached a conclusion because of the actions of many nations over many years, and because the people of Russia and Eastern Europe stood up and decided that its end would be peaceful.”


John said...

The Post is busy doing stories on what a great hero Bernie Kerik is.

To bad you weren't taking a serious look at the press coverage of Bush and his Iraq policy . Perhaps 1000's wouldn't have died going after Bin Laden's enemy.

But don't worry, soon the NY Post will buy the NY Times and than we all will become zombies

A Former American said...

It's interesting to read your perspective, but your history is inaccurate. It's the US that is doing the invading around the world which makes the US more like Hitler than the Russians. Use "the entire world except the US and the UK" for "Chamberlain” and "Hitler and the Nazi's" for "the US" and you might get a glimpse of what people see outside of your narrow minded world. Perhaps the blank look from Putin was his atempt to maintain a straight face at the boldness of the huge lie being told: that the US intends through its invasions and wars to bring democracy to the rest of the world. After the mess Bush created and left behind, it's no small accomplishment that the other major nuclear power has agreed to reduce its nuclear weapons.

jgrant said...

For anyone sincerely interested in post-Soviet U.S.-Russia relations, Stephen Cohen's
piece from a few years ago is wonderfully insightful. It's long, but well worth your time and provides a good framework for understanding current news items.

John said...

The collapse of the price of oil caused the USSR to realize it couldn't match USA military spending. You can thank that for the end of the Cold war. But as to Jeff's comments about Obama. He looks just like Bush to me. Same Iraq policy. His people have thier finger prints all over wallstreet and its never ending scams just as Bush's people did. I voted for the man and i look like a fool. Should have voted for myself.

Anonymous said...

Well said, FA.

Reaganite Republican said...

And the worst is yet to come- In '78 Jimmy Carter met with Brezhnev, extending his hand in friendship much as Obama is doing in Russia today. After seeing what kind of a zero they were dealing with firsthand, the Soviet Union promptly invaded Afghanistan- in direct violation of promises made to Carter in Moscow six months earlier.

It is hard to imagine today's Kremlin being cowed or intimidated after meeting with a smiley plastic mannequin like Obama, putting his arm around them and schmoozing all the time- they know he's not going to do anything.

Yes We Can invade Ukraine... and what are you going to do about it?

Ben said...

When Obama bails out the New York Times, which is currently on the brink of bankruptcy, its likely that it will become even more of a propoganda machine for the White House. The story that should have been written is "The Blurring Lines Between the U.S. and the former U.S.S.R."

Joe said...

Bravo, Jeff, for your clear-eyed vision of the president and his media cheerleaders / enablers. You can rest assured that Putin (along with Kim in NoKo, the mullahs in Iran, and terrorists around the world, to say nothing of our "friends" in China and Saudi Arabia) have also taken their measure of Obama and reached the same conclusion you have.

The irony is that after Obama succeeds in groveling away America's place as the world's sole superpower, that role will be filled by regimes that are FAR less sensitive to fundamental human rights. Homosexuals in Iran? Prepare to be stoned to death. Religious in China? Expect to be shot to death by riot police. Political dissidents in North Korea. Starved to death in a re-education camp.

The glories of the post-American world which Obama seeks to midwife.

Anonymous said...


US = Nazi Germany?

Sure, it makes for good poetry.

But if you are suggesting that the recent US actions are the equivalent AT ANY LEVEL with those of the Third Reich, you cannot be taken seriously.

Dan said...

Jeff outstanding article. It is clear to me that if the entire press corp were fired tonight the news tomorrow and on would be the same as it has been for months and no one would notice.

I know I should not comment about other commentors but I cannot contain myself. Mr.Former American I am happy you are a former American. As for those countries we invaded to bring democracy to, lets go down the list:
France, Germany, Italy, and Japan these 3 the goal was regeme change, China(worked until 1949 when Mao took over), South Korea, we were disuaded from staying in North Korea. There is a nice comparison here between South Korea that we were able to invade and expliot, and the pristine peoples paradise of North Korea. Back to the list Panama, Philipeans, Lebanon, Grenada, I know I have left some out. Anyway not all wins, but overwhelmingly free.

And now back to Iraq and Afghanistan. These countries are facing issues similar to what some of the southern states faced after the war for cecession. It was a very ugly 100 years until the 1965 civil rights movement. I hope those 2 countries solve their internal squabbles faster than we were able to here. But my former American, that is what freedom is. It has to fought for, claimed, and closely protected.
BTW where do former Americans go to live?

And Russia agreeing to reduce its nuclear weapons and actually doing it are two differnt things.

Anonymous said...

What a lazy post. Jeff, the O guy is smarter than you will ever be. And Im not making this up...

Jeff Matthews said...

"Anonymous," that's a pretty low standard for a President of this great country.


Sean said...

I generally love this blog, but I find it somewhat striking the Jeff Matthews and company are busy critiquing a Krugman opinion piece without giving mention to the fact that the WSJ is printing Karl Rove and Arthur Laffer editorials every week. These are, if you go to the web site, often the most read articles in the entire paper.

Krugman, for all his progressiveness (or socialist tendencies, whatever) is at least a well-reasoned and accomplished economist.

If you want to take issue with him, I think it's only fair to take issue with the opinion pieces coming out of the other side of the political spectrum. Read these editorials (especially anything by Laffer, the man famed for his pointless curve) and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Silenced Commenter said...


It is interesting that you deride other people's comments being like "yahoo boards" yet not post comments calling you out on the same. Godwin's law reference hit too close to home?

While the meeting of the presidents really wasn't much to talk about, you somehow managed to come up with wrong analogy and contorted reasoning against some of the (however minor) progress.

1. Slash nuclear arsenal is a no brainer? After many years of both countries failing to do so it's all of a sudden just that easy?

2. Medvedev somehow winning from reestablishment of military contacts? US will have more military access to the area it is struggling to have influence in. That's a surprising turn of events after Russia pressured its neighbors to almost kick out US airbases. It probably has nothing to do with Obama personally, but it is still a tactical win for US.

3. Air corridor comment is nonsensical. Just as noted above, this is a 180 change from Russia's prior policy. And it is a convenient fact to forget that USSR was fighting a war against a country that had US support. Those Stingers didn't just make themselves. Let alone the fact that now US is fighting the same enemy (Al Qaeda) as Russia has since mid-90s.

On a side note, Dan's list ignores such facts like democracy taking hold in Vietnam only after US left. And then there are these countries: Cuba, Bolivia, Iran, Iraq (prior to 2003, jury still out for this time), China, Haiti, Russia, Lebanon, Grenada, Bolivia, Afghanistan (prior to 2003), Somalia. A century worth of countries invaded that are hardly considered beacons of democracy by US itself.

Jeff Matthews said...

Sean, who could possibly care what Karl Rove says? Has any single individual been more discredited than he? Besides, he's a political hack. If we wanted to bother taking issue with political hacks, we wouldn't have the time to shave.

Krugman is a serious economist, and he has clout. He gets invited to the White House to talk economics with the President. His opinions are helping formulate policy. If they are based on wildly false premises, as I think some are, it matters.

Silenced Commentator, I'm not sure what you wrote that didn't make the cut, but any comment that uses profanity and sloppy English doesn't get posted, period. That's Yahoo message-board stuff and it doesn't belong here. Doesn't matter who you like or who you hate.

As you now know by having your non-message-board comment for full viewing.


Anonymous said...


A different and positive slant from a member of the opposition in Moscow. Worth the read.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, meant to quote from that Newsweek article:

"The very fact of Obama's meeting with the leaders of Russia's opposition infuriated the authorities. The signal he sent to Medvedev and Putin by meeting with us is clear: his administration will engage not only with those who are in the Kremlin today, but also with those who may be in the Kremlin tomorrow."

I would think that belies the Chamberlain analogy, no? And thats a quote from an opposition member in Russia.

Baz Calhoun said...

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