The State’s Dark Side

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One has to wonder how the editorial writers at The Oklahoman live within their surreal, fictionalized world of false claims and glaring contradictions.

It has to be spooky to reside on the unstable abyss in which the opposite of what one thinks and says is often exactly the truth in the most obvious ways. It has to go far beyond the personal cost of disseminating propaganda into darker regions of human experience and reality.

The recent example of the antithetical reality of The Oklahoman editorial page is this: Despite all evidence to the contrary, it recently argued that President Barack Obama was given a warm welcome during his trip to the state. What’s more, it followed this up with a sarcastic, biting editorial about the president, arguing his trip here was worthless.

Let’s go over the facts. Obama arrived in Oklahoma City last week and then traveled to Cushing to announce he was going to try to expedite the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline, which will carry oil from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast. The announcement was good economic news for the state in particular and its overall energy industry.

It was understandable that the governor and other prominent Republicans didn’t greet him at the airport. The state received short notice of the trip. Gov. Mary Fallin was on vacation. The lieutenant governor was apparently away on business in Washington. What does this matter, anyway? Why quibble over perceived protocol.

But what The Oklahoman completely dismissed or ignored in its “warm welcome” claims is that the president was greeted with verbal media hectoring from four prominent business leaders, the vacationing governor and, of course, the newspaper itself. The theme from all of them was that the president had so much to learn from self-serving, ultra-conservatives when it comes to energy policy.

Despite this The Oklahoman editorial page had the audacity to claim, “Obama received a warm welcome on his arrival Wednesday night at Tinker Air Force Base and again in Cushing,” and later claimed that it was “nonsense” to think the president was given a rude welcome.

But what about the verbal hectoring from the Oklahoma power structure, led by The Oklahoman, which I wrote about here? It’s one thing when schedules don’t match; it’s quite another when Harold Hamm of Continental Resources, Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake Energy, Larry Nichols of Devon Energy and Tom Ward of SandRidge Energy go out of their way to compose a selfish missive, published in NewOK.com, that criticized the president on the day of his arrival. That’s rude. Nichols even appeared in a mean-spirited huff on at least one local television station as he criticized the president. That’s rude.

When Fallin and her staff take the time, even when the governor is on vacation, to issue a statement that claims, “President Obama’s rhetoric is matched with a policy record that is aggressively anti-energy,” which is completely untrue, well, that’s rude, too. When the Oklahoman piles it on with an editorial that borders on the absurd (“So demagogue all you want about undertaxed oil barons. Just remember that you didn't arrive here on a solar-powered aircraft.”), that’s rude.

Do The Oklahoman editorial writers think that Obama and his staff weren’t aware of the rhetorical fire?

Here’s an approach that would NOT have been rude and inhospitable: Simply concede good-naturedly political differences and then welcome the president to the state. Better yet, say nothing. Obviously, the state is going to give its electoral votes to Obama’s opponent this election. What’s the point with the hectoring? It actually turns him into a political martyr.

Meanwhile, the same newspaper which claimed Obama received a warm welcome followed up his visit with an editorial yesterday that argued when it comes to the pipeline the president is “enthusiastic about appearing to be enthusiastic,” further noting that the “pledge to expedite construction on the southern leg was neither needed nor worth a trip to Oklahoma.”

This is what the newspaper is obviously saying: Don’t ever come here again, Mr. President. That’s more rudeness.

Political beliefs are one thing, but the sophomoric and rude welcome given to the president shows a darker side to Oklahoma that often goes unacknowledged against the trope that the state’s residents are collectively nice and welcoming people. Editorial writers living on the unstable abyss—no, no, Obama got a real nice welcome here, sure did—make that dark side even more apparent to the world.