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Pretzel Logic

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 27, 2008; 9:31 AM

Barack Obama is under hostile fire for changing his position on the D.C. gun ban.

Oh, I'm sorry. He didn't change his position, apparently. He reworded a clumsy statement.

That, at least, is what his campaign is saying. The same campaign that tried to spin his flip-flop in rejecting public financing as embracing the spirit of reform, if not the actual position he had once promised to embrace.

Is this becoming a pattern? Wouldn't it be better for Obama to say he had thought more about such-and-such an issue and simply changed his mind? Is that verboten in American politics? Is it better to engage in linguistic pretzel-twisting in an effort to prove that you didn't change your mind?

Regardless of what you think of the merits of yesterday's Supreme Court ruling overturning the capital's handgun law, it seems to me we're entitled to a clear position by the presumed Democratic nominee. And I'm a bit confused about how the confusion came about.

Here's how the Illinois senator handled the issue with the Chicago Tribune just last November:

"The campaign of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said that he ' . . . believes that we can recognize and respect the rights of law-abiding gun owners and the right of local communities to enact common sense laws to combat violence and save lives. Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional.' "

Kind of a flat statement.

And here's what ABC reported yesterday: " 'That statement was obviously an inartful attempt to explain the Senator's consistent position,' Obama spokesman Bill Burton tells ABC News."

Inartful indeed.

But even though the earlier Obama quote and the "inartful" comment have been bouncing around the Net for 24 hours, I'm not seeing any reference to them in the morning papers. Most do what the New York Times did: "Mr. Obama, who like Mr. McCain has been on record as supporting the individual-rights view, said the ruling would 'provide much-needed guidance to local jurisdictions across the country.' "

Supporting the individual-rights view? Not in November.


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