Robert Knight: When Post Editors Attack

This column originally appeared on The American Thinker on September 2, 2009.

The Washington Post‘s behavior lately goes so far beyond mere bias that it looks like a caricature cooked up by a comedian or saboteur. The paper’s bid to fix the Virginia gubernatorial election is right out of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.

Alinsky, the communist organizer who was Barack Obama’s political lodestar, prescribes a simple strategy to win: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” (p. 130) The Post has launched a bald-faced attempt to “freeze” GOP candidate Robert McDonnell. It would be funny if it were not such a serious breach of journalistic ethics.

The campaign began on August 30, with a top of the page, single column headline, “’89 Thesis a Different Side of McDonnell: Va. GOP candidate Wrote on Women, Marriage and Gays.” It was right next to a gigantic, five-column headline honoring Ted Kennedy: ‘We Loved This Kind and Tender Hero.’ Just below was a photo of a mourner holding a large American flag.

Ted a hero! McDonnell a fundamentalist bigot! Over on the front page of the Post’s Outlook section, there was also a giant headline, saying, “We Have the HOPE” (the latter word all caps in at least 72-point type) with a photo of Kennedy applauding as Obama looks heroically skyward. The rest of the headline below the photo reads, “Now Where’s the Audacity? Ted Kennedy passed the liberal torch to Obama. Now let’s run with it.”

You mean he hasn’t been running with it? What about those trillions spent, the radical social agenda and appointees, the threat to take over the nation’s health care and to strangle industry with a cap and trade carbon tax? Never let it be said that liberals are easily satisfied. Even when you’re working on 99 percent of their agenda, they’re accusing you of dogging it. Well, why not? It seems to work.

But back to the Post’s attack on McDonnell. As a grad student at what became Regent University, McDonnell penned a paper in 1989 that focuses a Biblical lens on public policy. A Post reporter doing opposition research turned it up. Perhaps the most egregious assertion in the Post’s eyes is McDonnell’s use of the term “fornicators” to describe people who engage in, well, fornication. He didn’t think the law should give those folks the same marital rights as those of folks who take a marriage vow.

The shot on Aug. 30 was followed by more, and then a lead editorial on Sept. 1, “Bob McDonnell, Culture Warrior.” Now, it’s not bad per se to be a culture warrior. It’s okay if you want to redefine marriage, teach children that “safe” fornication and sodomy are fun and inevitable, oppose partial-birth abortion bans, ensure an onslaught of pornography and illegal immigration, expand government and redistribute income as fast as possible. But if you believe that God’s plan for natural marriage should be reflected in the law, that sex outside marriage should be discouraged for everyone’s benefit, especially children’s, then you are a “culture warrior” of a different sort.

After three days of pounding McDonnell, who polls show has anywhere from a seven to 14-point lead over his liberal Democratic opponent, R. Creigh Deeds, the Post ran this front-page headline, also on Sept. 1:

“Governor’s Race Erupts Over McDonnell’s Past Views.” This is like throwing gasoline on a dwelling, lighting it, fanning it, and stepping back to point and scream, “House Erupts in Fire!”

Actually, a lot of news organizations do this. You run an investigative piece and then step back to report on the fallout. This worked in 2006, when the Post constantly repeated Sen. George Allen’s “macaca” quip, often on the front page, right up to election day. By the time they were done casting Allen as a vicious, perhaps dangerous, bigot, they got their Democrat Senator in Jim Webb.

If it worked with Allen, why not use it on McDonnell?

Part of Allen’s undoing was his attempt to apologize, spilling blood in the water. It led only to more attacks. McDonnell appears to be repeating the error, saying he no longer believes what he once wrote.

One thing the Post is reporting in hushed breath as if it were Richard Nixon’s heretofore secret list of illegal contributors is McDonnell’s shocking contention that schools should teach character education that conveys “traditional Judeo-Christian values.”

Unless McDonnell wants to go down Allen’s trail, he might consider giving a bold defense of the importance of Judeo-Christian values to the founding and continued success of our free republic.

Post editors are so accustomed to politicians caving that it might throw them off. At the least, they might have to spend more hours in Rules for Radicals before launching their next attack packaged as “news.”

2009-09-02T09:00:27+00:00Categories: OPED|