Washington Post Tougher on Romney than Hezb'allah Killer of 241 Marines
The Washington Post recently used the word "troubling" in a headline describing Mitt Romney's behavior as a teenager, and insisted in a subsequent column that his conduct in 1965 plays a vital role in providing clues to his current character.
Remarkably, this is the same newspaper that has featured commentaries by terrorist kingpins and never used a term as negative as "troubling" to identify them.
I think biographical stories on presidential candidates are fair game even if controversial incidents contained in them are far in the past. Of course we all change and mature. But these stories give clues to the character of the flesh-and-blood human beings we pick to lead us.
This justification seems to imply that this early, newsworthy "clue to the character" of Romney was the revealing first display of a disturbing pattern of bullying behavior. So we might soon be hearing about how Romney belonged to one of the Mormon gangs that roamed the New York subways, terrorizing citizens of various races and nationalities; about the victim found unconscious with the letters LDS carved in his forehead, with Romney's fingerprints found on the scene. Surely another shoe will drop any day now.
The ombudsman's claim that actions "far in the past" merit prominent coverage is grossly disingenuous, considering that the Post obsesses over Romney's behavior as a teenager in 1965 while ignoring that Obama, as a 34-year-old politician, helped organize and attended the 1995 march on Washington led by Rev. Louis Farrakhan, a thug of the far-right variety who idolizes Hitler, demonizes homosexuals (they're "swine"), threatened to "punish" a black reporter "with death," and formed an alliance with a Klan leader found criminally liable for inciting skinheads to beat an Ethiopian immigrant to death. (If it's 1994 once again for Romney because of examination of his Bain years by the Obama team and the media, why are Obama's astonishingly extremist political activities in 1995 and beyond treated as off-limits by the media and, so far, by Romney himself?)
The most significant revelation in the Post article -- buried far down, yet deserving to be highlighted in the headline -- was how Romney's involvement in altruistic activities far outweighed a single alleged instance of cruelty. We learn that he "played a leading role in the American Field Service, which helped bring foreign students to the campus. He also served a leadership role on a student cabinet organization and during his senior year took a bus with some Kingswood girls to volunteer at the nearby state mental hospital..."
So a more fair and accurate headline would have focused primarily on these early signs that Romney was evolving into a compassionate leader. But this is the Post, some of whose writers were among the members of the JournoList email list, which served as a forum to discuss ways to cover up unwanted news such as the Rev. Wright story.
Another fascinating detail, also hidden far down in the article, could have just as easily been featured as the most important factor in a story about how the young Romney became the kind of leader he is today:
The campus's elegant Christ Church had a Star of David, an Islamic crescent, and yin-and-yang sign above its wooden door. The Mormon Romney joined Jews and Protestants on Cranbrook's Church Cabinet, which focused on community service.
Imagine the potential headline: "Romney shaped by inclusive 1960s church, Obama by anti-Semitic hate cult." Such a headline would be 100-percent factual, but no mainstream media outlet ever would dare to state the truth about the emperor's clothes.
In breathtaking contrast to its coverage of Romney, the Post has featured commentaries by Hamas and Hezb'allah terrorists, who are never identified as terrorists or even as bullies. Hamas official Ahmad Yousef and co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar have been Op-Ed contributors. The Post, in partnership with Newsweek, also included Grand Ayatollah Muhammed Hussein Fadlallah, "spiritual leader" of Hezb'allah, in a "Muslims Speak Out" panel in the "On Faith" forum. (An excerpt remains on the website, but the full original column no longer seems to be accessible.)
Not surprisingly, it was in another Post "On Faith" column that Arun Gandhi declared that "Israel and the Jews are the biggest players" in "a culture of violence" that is "going to destroy humanity."
The commentary by al-Zahar prompted terrorism expert Steven Emerson to ask, "Did the Post pay its standard fee for Zahar's column?" Emerson cited the opinion of Jeffrey Breinholt, former deputy chief of the Department of Justice's counterterrorism section, that any payment to an official of a designated terrorist organization might qualify as material support in violation of US law.
The "On Faith" column by Hezb'allah's Fadlallah introduced him merely as a "controversial" supporter of "resistance":
Considered the leading Shi'ite Muslim Intellectual in Lebanon, Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah is a controversial figure known primarily for his support of the armed Shi'ite resistance movement, Hezbollah and for his uncompromising stance against the State of Israel.
For the Post to use the term "resistance" is to repeat the terrorists' own propaganda and act as their PR agents by covering up the horror of their serial murders of civilians. And the adjective they apply to Hezb'allah's equivalent to bin Laden -- "controversial" -- is slightly milder than the label often given to Tim Tebow -- "polarizing."
As an obituary of Fadlallah noted, "Western intelligence services...held the ayatollah responsible for attacks against Western targets, including the 1983 bombings of two barracks in Beirut in which 241 United States Marines and 58 French paratroopers were killed." How many of Fadlallah's fellow Post columnists can boast achievements as awesome?
Fadlallah's 2010 death inspired the tweet by CNN's Senior Editor of Mideast affairs Octavia Nasr about how much she would miss him, and her subsequent firing. On the Washington Post Company-owned Foreign Policy.com, Stephen Walt -- best-known for maligning the motives and loyalty of Israel's supporters as co-author of The Israel Lobby -- defended Nasr's praise of Fadlallah, arguing, "CNN was essentially caving into a black/white, us vs. them, good vs. absolute evil view of the world. Because the United States had labeled Fadlallah a 'terrorist,' expressing any sort of positive comment about him was a firing offense... we ought to be able to acknowledge and 'respect' [people] for their positive actions while recognizing and condemning their errors or flaws."
The numerous bigoted reader comments generated by his Washington Post-hosted commentaries "suggest that the purpose of Walt's blog is to act as a magnet for the animus of a readership hostile not only to Israel but also to American figures friendly to Israel, especially American Jews," noted Lee Smith of Tablet magazine.
"Whether that bothers the owners of The Washington Post or thrills the advertising staff is another question. Jeffrey Goldberg [of The Atlantic] believes that big media companies have morally blinded themselves to the ramifications of using anti-Semitism to attract readers. 'I suppose that to the managers of Foreign Policy, traffic is traffic,' Goldberg says. 'But in the course of building that traffic they're surfacing some fairly dreadful invective about Jews. I don't think they'd be comfortable surfacing the same kind of invective about African-Americans or other groups. But there seems to be a high tolerance for hosting a Jew-baiting blog.'"
In the same vein, the Post website provides a unique version of history that can potentially help countless young students learn what a great guy Yasser Arafat was. They feature two heartwarming tributes:
Arafat's Dream Never Realized
For virtually his entire adult life, Yasser Arafat had one dream, and he pursued it with such energy and zeal -- some would say fanaticism -- that he came to personify the dream itself. The dream was of self-determination and statehood for the Palestinian people, and in the end he did not live to see it.
Narrated Slide Show: Arafat Remembered
A close-up view of the life and legacy of the iconic leader and Nobel laureate who came to embody the hopes and aspirations of the Palestinians and their quest for a homeland. Narrated by The Post's Lee Hockstader.
Yes, the pioneer of modern Islamic terrorism, the biggest serial killer of Jews since Hitler, was an "iconic leader" who personified a dream and embodied hopes. Not a negative word can be found on the page, not even "troubling," the adjective pinned to Romney.
It's no accident the Post unveiled the "bully" narrative when they did. The earlier storyline -- that Romney is a weak candidate, fails to connect with voters, and is universally disliked -- became difficult to sustain any longer when the man nobody liked won the most votes. Another strategy taking shape, not long ago considered unthinkable, is revealed in a recent Post column asking whether Romney's religion is "fair game." The question itself hints that there is something objectionable in Mormonism that reasonable people might find to be a reason not to vote for Romney. Prepare for further, increasingly desperate attacks, as Romney continues to receive more negative coverage than mass-murdering terrorists.
Edward Olshaker is a longtime freelance journalist whose work has appeared in History News Network, The Jewish Press, FrontPage Magazine, and other publications.