Obama finds that the Internet bites back

Amid growing pressure, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the USDA will reconsider its decision to ask an employee to resign over racially tinged remarks she made at an NAACP banquet.
By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 27, 2010

For a man who came to power by harnessing the potential of the Internet, President Obama has been oddly out of sorts in recent days as the medium turned against him.

Last week, his advisers embarrassed themselves when they fired a mid-level Agriculture Department official over a supposedly racist video clip on

a right-wing blog -- only to apologize and offer to rehire her when they learned that the innocent woman had been the victim of selective excerpting.

Then, on Monday afternoon, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs found himself trying to tell the world to pay

no attention to those 91,000 classified documents about the war in Afghanistan just published online.

"In terms of broad revelations, there aren't any that we see in these documents," the presidential spokesman said of the WikiLeaks document dump.

And: "I'm -- I'm unaware of a list of concerns that would be different today than they were a week ago, based on what we've seen."

And: "I don't -- again, I don't -- I don't see broad new revelations that we weren't either concerned about and working through this time a week ago."

If those variations of the old "move along, nothing to see here" defense weren't sufficient, Gibbs offered up the rare triple-negative combination denial: "I don't know that what is being said, or what is being reported, isn't something that hasn't been discussed fairly publicly."

So why did John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, say the leaked documents "raise serious questions about the reality of America's policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan" and "may very well underscore the stakes and make the calibrations needed to get the policy right more urgent"?

The question left Gibbs tongue-tied. "No, no, let's -- well, let's -- let me first be clear about -- I think it is hard -- would be hard to identify anybody that has done as much as Senator Kerry has," he offered.

Ah, okay, then.

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