Thomas: The Perils of Punditry

I am an occasional talking head on TV, and I try to appear relaxed, though I am sometimes anxious. In those moments, I can say something that is wrong or that I regret. I don't just put my foot in my mouth on television—I do it at dinner parties, too—but at least, in that case, it doesn't show up on YouTube. Appearing on Hardball With Chris Matthews on June 5, I compared President Obama with God.

Or at least that's how it seemed to some bloggers and talk-show hosts, who made me a poster child for the argument that the liberal press is hopelessly in love with Obama. "Thomas and those like him really do view Obama as the Anointed One, a political messiah, not only a gift from heaven but the Creator of Heaven and Earth," Peter Wehner wrote on commentarymagazine?.com. "Keep in mind that Thomas is viewed as a serious journalist for what was once seen as a serious mainstream publication: NEWSWEEK." Rush Limbaugh said: "It is offensive to the sensibilities of millions of people to hear a member of the state-run media refer to a half-black, half-white human being with no ex-perience running any-thing of substance referred to as a god. He may be president of the United States, but he's not a god." What I said was: "In a way, Obama's standing above the country, above—above the world, a sort of god." I was not being literal. During a discussion about presidential rhetoric, I was comparing Ronald Reagan's patriotic appeals with Obama's attempt to transcend -parochialism.

It is a source of some amusement to my colleagues that I've been singled out like this because, though I'm known as a blurter, my politics wobble between right of center and left of center. I have actually been a frequent critic of liberal bias in the press. As for the "god" comment, the night after the election I popped off on Charlie Rose that there was a "slightly creepy cult of personality" about Obama. That enraged Obama supporters.

I could complain about being "taken out of context" this time, but I scoff when politicians do that. I've never had much success in watching what I say, and I enjoy going on TV. So sooner or later, experience has taught me, I'll wind up writing another one of these things.