The Washington Post

Earthquake? It’s Obama’s fault.

When disaster strikes, the online commentariate...shows the worst of itself. Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft has already made the 5.9 magnitude earthquake that rattled the East Coast a dumb partisan issue, writing:

A 5.8 quake hit Washington DC this afternoon.

The Obama family was biking.

Judging by the comments below Hoft’s post and the buzz he’s getting on some big aggregators, apparently there’s an audience for this. Hoft, too, seems to have an acute preoccupation with the fairly limited amounts of leisure time Obama takes, particularly when bad things happen that the president didn’t cause and can’t control. He attacked Obama last year for playing golf while oil was spewing into the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Which it did for months.

But any disaster, it seems, is an opportunity for cheap commentary. I’m a little surprised that Glenn Beck hasn’t already speculated that God is punishing Obama for raising the debt ceiling, or something.

Hoft’s jab, anyway, magnifies two of the worst problems with political debate in America. First is pundits’ tendency to make literally everything into a partisan matter. If people are reading about it, they need to read about how the other guy is somehow implicated. Second is that, so often, the president’s critics — on left and right — commentate as though Obama has some sort of magic button available for use at his sole discretion that can fix the economy, lower gas prices, instantly vaporize Moammar Gaddafi, rig congressional votes and, perhaps, prevent earthquakes — if only the president weren’t too busy doing other things to use it! Hoft’s latest post is, sadly, only the most ridiculous play on this logic, which Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann and others have also recently exploited.

Stephen Stromberg is a Post editorial writer. He specializes in domestic policy, including energy, the environment, legal affairs and public health.

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