Don’t be too quick to sneer at his apology. Compared to the rest of the left, which has been desperately trying to change the subject by screeching about the fact that the student in the video refused to identify himself, this guy is a model of contrition. In fact, Ben Smith’s got a copy of the Democrats’ talking points on the assault. What’s missing?
1. There is always the part of the story that you can’t see in these gotcha style videos — what were these folks doing, how did they approach him, how were the cameraman and/or others off camera acting?
2. Why would any legitimate student doing a project or a journalist shagging a story not identify themselves. Motives matter — what was the motivation here? To incite this very type of reaction?
3. This is clearly the work of the Republican Party and the “interviewer” is clearly a low level staffer or intern. That’s what explains blurring the face of the “interviewer” and refusing to identify the entity this was done for. The Republicans know if they were caught engaging in this type of gotcha tactic it would undermine their own credibility — yet if it was an individual acting on his own there is no reason that person would have blurred themselves out of the video — and if it was the work of a right wing blog they would have their logo on the video and be shouting their involvement from the roof top.
4. This was a purposefully partisan hit job designed to incite a reaction for political reasons — but it is a tactic so low — the parties involved are remaining anonymous.
5. The fact that no one wants to take credit for this should raise real questions in the minds of voters and the press.
6. Push hard w/ blogs the lack of credibility inherent to anything Breitbart does/posts, given its role in the debunked ACORN videos…
Not a single word is devoted to the idea that asking a question of a congressman shouldn’t mean walking away with his palm print on your neck. Howard Kurtz, Dave Weigel, and Mediaite, among others in the media, have naturally zeroed in on the questioner’s identity as well, which comes as no surprise. As has often been noted, when a government leak hurts Republicans, the story is usually about the information that’s been leaked; when a leak hurts Democrats, the story is usually about the fact of the leak itself. When tea partiers knock off a centrist Republican incumbent, the story is about fringe-dwellers and their insane ideological purity; when the nutroots knock off a centrist Democrat, the story is about principled liberals keeping their representatives honest. Same thing here: If Joe Wilson had answered a question about whether he supports “the Bush agenda” by grabbing a kid by the throat, the kid’s professional affiliation would, I dare say, not be viewed as some sort of mitigating factor for Wilson. But this is the media we have. Second look at conservative “epistemic closure”!
Breitbart and Michael Flynn say they have no idea who shot the video; assuming that the students were indeed Republican “trackers,” paid to shadow Democrats in hopes of capturing a gaffe on film, I wait with bated breath for an explanation as to why these guys are illegitimate but the guy who caught George Allen’s “macaca” line on tape is A-OK. As for why they’re anonymous, R.S. McCain offers a persuasive theory: Given the viciousness of the DNC in trying to make this a story about them, wouldn’t you want to stay anonymous too in order to avoid reprisals?
Note that a reporter asks Etheridge during the Q&A here whether he felt threatened by the student — a perfect set-up for an “I was acting in self-defense” whinge. Etheridge doesn’t go for it, though: He says he’s been spit on before, but if there was any aggression by the questioner or his cameraman as part of this incident, he’s keeping it to himself. Click the image to watch.
Update: Reason’s Michael Moynihan can’t believe the excuse-making either:
The Atlantic rounds up the reactions here, and notes this “skeptical” tweet from my pal and former colleague Dave Weigel: “He’s a student! He’s working on a project! He has no name! Nothing shady there.” Sarcasm acknowledged, but what is “shady” about asking Etheridge a simple, if vague, question? First, the Congressman asks “Who are you?” while knocking the camera out of the kid’s hand and, demonstrating that he possesses a limited familiarity with American law, declaring that he has “a right to know who you are.” On a public street, you have the right to walk away, Bob, but members of Congress have no special rights to demand names and affiliations of those asking questions. Should these kids have been more specific? I would have been, though as demonstrated in the video they were attacked before they were allowed a chance to respond.
I really hope these two are Republican trackers, because it’ll be super-keen to watch the left explain how they had it coming.