As highlighted by Stephen Colbert last night, Dr. Keith Ablow on Fox Business recently broke down the ascension of President Barack Obama: “It’s a little too convenient when we have a president who, I contend, has it in for Americans, and we elected him because we were fearful at the time — we better elect someone who’s not very patriotic because, God, we could have terrorists attack us for being Americans. OK, so, we did that.”
Cable! Ablow is a Fox News contributor and a member of the Fox News Medical A-Team. He’s brought on air to deliver commentary and analysis — a point of view. As so often happens on the cable airwaves, though, viewpoints bump into facts and emerged battered from the confrontation.
With a huge assist from Washington Post Polling Analyst Scott Clement, we offer this breakdown of why Ablow’s riff was the dumbest, wrongest statement to air on cable news in at least the past couple of weeks.
No. 1: The American mindset at the time of Barack Obama’s election, according to Ablow, was that “we better elect someone who’s not very patriotic.” OK, but a survey from mid-October 2008 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that 67 percent of respondents considered Barack Obama patriotic. Though Obama’s opponent in the 2008 presidential election, Sen. John McCain, scored a more impressive 89 percent on the same question, Obama’s rating debunks Ablow’s not-very-patriotic contention. Plus, there’s the facial absurdity that the American public could/would conspire to elect a non-patriotic president as a coordinated anti-terrorism strategy.
No. 2: Ablow’s contention rests on the idea that terrorism was moving voters in the 2008 election. A national exit poll sponsored by major news outlets, however, found that 63 percent cited the economy as the top issue. And 53 percent of them broke for Obama. Nine percent cited terrorism as most important.
No. 3: “The 2008 election campaign marked a clear low point in concern about terrorism,” notes Clement, who cites a 2008 Washington Post-ABC poll finding that 62 percent believed that U.S. anti-terrorism efforts were going at least “fairly well.”
Motives are generally safe turf for cable-news hacks. With full impunity they can spout off about why President Obama campaigned for health-care reform or cut a prisoner-swap deal to bring home Taliban captive Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Or why Hillary Rodham Clinton didn’t appear on the Sunday talk shows right after the Benghazi attacks. Yet when it comes to the motives of an entire electorate, the polling industry has that covered, with data that frown on Ablow.
On the other hand, no exit poll is going to touch Ablow’s contention that authorities might be looking to distract Americans from bad news: “They’re rolling out the marijuana,” said Ablow, in a contention far more defensible than his electoral analysis. “They’re getting everybody high and they’re getting everybody to watch more and more entertainment. Does that sound like perhaps — I don’t want to be a conspiracy theory guy — but why is that?”