WaPo Editor Goes Gaga over Rouhani

The World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos has become an annual event that brings together elites from the worlds of politics, economics, finance, and the media. This year, the top attractions were Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Rouhani was in Davos to advance Iran's charm offensive and lull world leaders into overlooking Tehran's progress toward obtaining nuclear weapons; Netanyahu was there to prod and awake these same leaders to recognize Iran's real designs to eliminate the Jewish state and to achieve strategic primacy in the Middle East.

With Rouhani and Netanyahu poised to cross swords, Davos was ready for sparks to fly, given these clashing agendas. As far as the media were concerned, the stage was set for reports about real, eye-opening exchanges.
But, alas, that's not what the Washington Post served up to its readers, even though its Davos dispatch was credited to none other than Executive Editor Martin Baron, who made his own pilgrimage to the Swiss report. This also was the first time that the Post featured a Baron by-line since he was named to the top editorial post a year ago. (Secondary by-line credit was given to diplomatic correspondent Anne Gearan.)

But with Baron himself in the spotlight as lead writer, readers were given an opportunity to find out whether he could file an evenhanded, fair, and objective article, which might set a proper example to often biased Post correspondents who tend to whitewash Arab/Muslim sins while showing no reticence in bashing Israel.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. Baron's piece is replete with glorifying puff about Rouhani, while Netanyahu gets short shrift and back-of-the-bus treatment. Baron's 22-paragraph article is devoted almost entirely to Rouhani's supposedly big splash, while Netanyahu is relegated to the final three paragraphs ("Rouhani: Tehran is ready for a nuclear deal -- Iran's leader continues charm offensive at World Economic Forum" by Martin Baron and Anne Gearan, Jan. 24, page A11).

While the U.S. and Israel still believe that Iran is aiming to develop nuclear weapons, Baron writes that Rouhani's speech and a round of media interviews here continue a remarkable revamp of Iran's image abroad, led by the smiling multilingual cleric who on Thursday called his political philosophy 'prudent moderation.'"

Smitten thus by Rouhani's great PR while ignoring his real agenda, Baron goes on to write that "the kinder, gentler face Rouhani presents appears part of an effort to explain the Iranian position more widely and win support for what he calls a pragmatic approach to resolving international doubts about the program. Rouhani's English-language Twitter account has been a key tool in the international charm offensive."

Baron concedes in passing that Iran "considers Israel illegitimate" and makes "many Arab neighbors nervous." But not to worry. From Davos, Baron assures Post readers that Rouhani "pledged constructive engagement with Iran's neighbors." And let's not forget that "His tweet wishing Jews a happy Rosh Hashanah made news last year."

With a smiling guy like Rouhani, what's to worry about?

But what about Netanyahu at Davos? Granted only the last three paragraphs, the Israeli leader denounced Rouhani's remarks as opportunistic, according to Baron, and tried to expose the fact "the goal of the Iranian ayatollah's regime, which is hiding behind Rouhani's smiles, is to ease sanctions without conceding on their program to produce nuclear weapons."

And those are the only crumbs allotted to Bibi. Could Baron have done better? You bet. Didn't Netanyahu uncork lots of additional newsworthy remarks? Of course. Here are some of Netanyahu's rejoinders that are completely missing from Baron's dispatch:

● "At a time when Rouhani condemns the killing of innocents, dozens of innocents were recently executed in Iran."

● "At a time when Rouhani talks about a positive approach to technology, he prevents Iranians from freely surfing the Internet."

● "At a time when Rouhani talks about peace with the countries of the Middle East, he refuses -- even today -- to recognize the existence of the State of Israel, and his regime daily calls for the destruction of Israel."

● "At a time when Rouhani claims that Iran is not interested in a nuclear project for military purposes, Iran continues to strengthen its centrifuges and heavy water reactor, and to arm itself with interncontinental missiles, the sole purpose of which is for nuclear weapons."

● "Rouhani has admitted that a decade ago, he deceived the West in order to advance the Iranian nuclear program. He is doing this today as well." Didn't all these Netanyahu points merit some recognition by Baron and the Washington Post?

Evidently not. Readers are left with an article that is neither fair, nor balanced, nor objective. And it comes to Post readers from the paper's new editor.

Leo Rennert was the White House correspondent for the McClatchy newspapers.

The World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos has become an annual event that brings together elites from the worlds of politics, economics, finance, and the media. This year, the top attractions were Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Rouhani was in Davos to advance Iran's charm offensive and lull world leaders into overlooking Tehran's progress toward obtaining nuclear weapons; Netanyahu was there to prod and awake these same leaders to recognize Iran's real designs to eliminate the Jewish state and to achieve strategic primacy in the Middle East.

With Rouhani and Netanyahu poised to cross swords, Davos was ready for sparks to fly, given these clashing agendas. As far as the media were concerned, the stage was set for reports about real, eye-opening exchanges.
But, alas, that's not what the Washington Post served up to its readers, even though its Davos dispatch was credited to none other than Executive Editor Martin Baron, who made his own pilgrimage to the Swiss report. This also was the first time that the Post featured a Baron by-line since he was named to the top editorial post a year ago. (Secondary by-line credit was given to diplomatic correspondent Anne Gearan.)

But with Baron himself in the spotlight as lead writer, readers were given an opportunity to find out whether he could file an evenhanded, fair, and objective article, which might set a proper example to often biased Post correspondents who tend to whitewash Arab/Muslim sins while showing no reticence in bashing Israel.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. Baron's piece is replete with glorifying puff about Rouhani, while Netanyahu gets short shrift and back-of-the-bus treatment. Baron's 22-paragraph article is devoted almost entirely to Rouhani's supposedly big splash, while Netanyahu is relegated to the final three paragraphs ("Rouhani: Tehran is ready for a nuclear deal -- Iran's leader continues charm offensive at World Economic Forum" by Martin Baron and Anne Gearan, Jan. 24, page A11).

While the U.S. and Israel still believe that Iran is aiming to develop nuclear weapons, Baron writes that Rouhani's speech and a round of media interviews here continue a remarkable revamp of Iran's image abroad, led by the smiling multilingual cleric who on Thursday called his political philosophy 'prudent moderation.'"

Smitten thus by Rouhani's great PR while ignoring his real agenda, Baron goes on to write that "the kinder, gentler face Rouhani presents appears part of an effort to explain the Iranian position more widely and win support for what he calls a pragmatic approach to resolving international doubts about the program. Rouhani's English-language Twitter account has been a key tool in the international charm offensive."

Baron concedes in passing that Iran "considers Israel illegitimate" and makes "many Arab neighbors nervous." But not to worry. From Davos, Baron assures Post readers that Rouhani "pledged constructive engagement with Iran's neighbors." And let's not forget that "His tweet wishing Jews a happy Rosh Hashanah made news last year."

With a smiling guy like Rouhani, what's to worry about?

But what about Netanyahu at Davos? Granted only the last three paragraphs, the Israeli leader denounced Rouhani's remarks as opportunistic, according to Baron, and tried to expose the fact "the goal of the Iranian ayatollah's regime, which is hiding behind Rouhani's smiles, is to ease sanctions without conceding on their program to produce nuclear weapons."

And those are the only crumbs allotted to Bibi. Could Baron have done better? You bet. Didn't Netanyahu uncork lots of additional newsworthy remarks? Of course. Here are some of Netanyahu's rejoinders that are completely missing from Baron's dispatch:

● "At a time when Rouhani condemns the killing of innocents, dozens of innocents were recently executed in Iran."

● "At a time when Rouhani talks about a positive approach to technology, he prevents Iranians from freely surfing the Internet."

● "At a time when Rouhani talks about peace with the countries of the Middle East, he refuses -- even today -- to recognize the existence of the State of Israel, and his regime daily calls for the destruction of Israel."

● "At a time when Rouhani claims that Iran is not interested in a nuclear project for military purposes, Iran continues to strengthen its centrifuges and heavy water reactor, and to arm itself with interncontinental missiles, the sole purpose of which is for nuclear weapons."

● "Rouhani has admitted that a decade ago, he deceived the West in order to advance the Iranian nuclear program. He is doing this today as well." Didn't all these Netanyahu points merit some recognition by Baron and the Washington Post?

Evidently not. Readers are left with an article that is neither fair, nor balanced, nor objective. And it comes to Post readers from the paper's new editor.

Leo Rennert was the White House correspondent for the McClatchy newspapers.

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