I’m at my cigar shop where they tend to have CNN on a lot. So I couldn’t help but hear Paul Begala rip into people who were skeptical of Obama’s statement that “we do skeet shooting all the time.” Like many other defenders of the president, Begala argued that the White House’s release of a photo showing Obama firing a shotgun should be mortifying for anybody who doubted the president’s word. It’s a “huge embarrassment” for them etc., etc.
Here’s the problem. I don’t know many people who thought Obama had never fired a shotgun. I was skeptical that he does it “all the time.” Indeed, in my experience the phrasing — “we do skeet shooting all the time” — is not the way most people who shoot skeet talk about skeet shooting. To my ear it sounds like saying “we do fishing all the time,” a formulation I’ve never heard from a fishermen of any kind. I still don’t believe that he goes skeet shooting all of the time, if all of the time means anything like the frequency of Obama’s golf and basketball outings. But hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he does skeet shooting every bit as much as he does basketball and does golfing. Maybe, the super-geniuses at the White House press shop thought it made sense to release thousands of photos of him golfing — far, far, far more than Bush ever did by the way — but for some reason declined to release a single photo of him doing skeet shooting. I see nothing wrong or unreasonable in being skeptical about politicians in general or this one in particular.
It’s also worth noting that, as far as I can tell, very few of Obama’s spinners denounced skepticism about Obama’s shooting before the picture was released. If it is so outrageous to suspect the president embellished, why hold off condemning the outrage until there’s photographic evidence? Perhaps it’s because they didn’t really believe it either?
In and of itself, I don’t think this is a big deal. But this White House has a very Clintonian habit of trying to make anybody skeptical of the president into a kind of unreasonable crackpot. It is a standard which, if applied to liberal skepticism of George W. Bush, would have required the immediate institutionalization of the editorial boards and much of the reporting staffs of The New Republic, the New York Times, the Washington Post and literally dozens of other outlets. By such a standard, Begala himself would still be in a straight jacket being spoon fed Jell-O.
One last point. Unlike a few folks out there, I don’t think this photo was fabricated. As I joked on Twitter, I just don’t understand why they cropped out Joe Biden with the apple on his head.