Washington Post blogger Erik Wemple is probably a decent enough guy. I wouldn't know, never having met him. Still, he comes from the alternative media culture given birth in the 1960s, which in some respects can be a mark in his favor in my book.
But Wemple said something on his blog Wednesday that requires correction. In an item making ad hominem sport of "conservative media outlets," he lumped this newspaper's recent special report -- The Obama You Don't Know -- with recent posts on Breitbart.com and Daily Caller about the president.
Then he offered this thought: "As these tracts overpromise and underdeliver, they also send the public the message that maybe the media -- not to mention Obama's political opponents, especially those in the 2008 primary contest -- took a decent look at his past. Perhaps the 'vetting' that so many critics say never happened, happened."
I won't presume to speak for the good chaps at Breitbart or the Daily Caller, but, as the editor who oversaw the Examiner's special report, I must challenge Wemple's gross generalization.
The special report promised readers new -- i.e., previously unreported -- information about Obama. That's exactly what it delivered. Some of the highlights were these:
• Contrary to the mythology of Obama as idealistic defender of the poor, attorney Obama helped a famous Chicago slumlord get off with a $50 fine after the guy failed to turn the lights and water back on in the affordable-housing complex from which he had also thrown out the residents in the dead of winter.
• Contrary to the mythology of Obama as the principled speaker of truth to corrupt power, Obama's 1997 Valentine's Day speech pointed the way to uniting Chicago's infamous Daley political machine with its longtime nemesis, the city's liberal activists. Key to the deal: using tax dollars and credits to build affordable housing. Developers got rich, liberal activists got jobs and influence, politicians got campaign money, and poor people got the shaft.
• Contrary to the mythology about Obama as "rock-star" law professor, his students at the University of Chicago Law School often ranked him in the bottom half of the faculty. During Obama's final years teaching, only a minority of his students said they would recommend his course.
• Contrary to the mythology of Obama as an idealistic reformer, he repeatedly rejected entreaties from genuine reformers in the Illinois legislature for his help in cleaning up one of the most corrupt state governments in America.
• In the same vein, Obama used a committee chairmanship in the state Senate to help put allies of his mentor, Tony Rezko, on a key state medical board. From there, these friends of Rezko helped steer lucrative state contracts to Rezko's favorites and poured cash into Obama's campaigns.
• Contrary to the mythology of "hope and change," Obama was a willing tool of the Chicago political machine. As his leftist critic Robert Fitch put it, "Obama's political base comes primarily from Chicago FIRE -- the finance, insurance and real estate industry," including "key black members of the Obama inner circle [who] are Daley administration alumni."
The special report included numerous other previously unreported facts about Obama, but these six illustrate aspects of the president's career and character that, to put it kindly, have for years received short shrift from the liberal precincts of the mainstream media.
Maybe Wemple thinks these revelations aren't significant or relevant in the ultimate scheme of things about Obama. That's fine, he's entitled to his opinions. But Wemple simply errs in writing off The Examiner's 10,000 words of solid reporting, which ploughed new ground, as if they did nothing more than revisit old, familiar territory.
A journalist who was once offered the editorship of the Village Voice ought to know better.
Mark Tapscott is executive editor of The Washington Examiner.