WaPo Puts Michelle Malkin Attack on Page 1 – ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ Repeal on Page 3
President Obama’s Saturday night declaration that " I will end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’" at a fundraising dinner for the gay-left Human Rights Campaign seems like a front-page story. But not to the Washington Post. Instead, they put pensions, Pakistan, a profile of Virginia gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell, and a Bush-era DNA-testing policy on the front page.
And at the top left: an attack on conservative blogger Michelle Malkin leading a charge of incivility that’s "sour, angry, even dangerous."
The headline was "In Today’s Viral World, Who Keeps a Civil Tongue?" Is the Post civil? They connected Malkin and her fans with anti-Semitic radio host Father Charles Coughlin, railing against Roosevelt in the 1930s.
Post reporter Ann Gearhart (formerly a Style-section gossip columnist) started with Washington housewife Charisse Carney-Nunes finding an e-mail from "Michelle Malkin, a best-selling and often inflammatory conservative writer with a heavily trafficked website." She was asking questions about a YouTube video featuring New Jersey schoolchildren chanting about Obama’s achievements to "mmm mmm mmm, Barack Hussein Obama."
By nightfall, Carney-Nunes's name was playing on Fox News and voice mails on her home phone and cellphone were clogged with the furious voices of strangers. The e-mails kept pouring in, by the hundreds, crammed with words spam filters try to catch: She was a "nappy-headed" traitor; she would lose her job and go to jail; she was Leni Riefenstahl, the filmmaker who glorified Hitler.
Is the Post suggesting that this is what naturally follows a blog post on MichelleMalkin.com? Gerhart continued by emphasizing that Carney-Nunes did not have anything to do with the song:
Critics are using the YouTube video of the children's song to argue that Obama is becoming a brainwashing dictator to raise money for the Republican National Committee, Chairman Michael S. Steele has compared the song to "the type of propaganda you see in Stalin's Russia."
Carney-Nunes, swept up in a viral tornado of vitriol, had nothing to do with the children's song. She was doing an author's reading in the school that day.
Raucous rhetoric against presidential power is a tool of both ends of the political spectrum, of course, most vociferously used by the party out of power.
"In a free and republican government, you cannot restrain the voice of the multitude. Every man will speak as he thinks," wrote George Washington, "or more properly, without thinking."
And that quote is right there on one of Glenn Beck's Web sites.
At the article's end, Gerhart returns to the hounded black housewife and her disgust at the right-wing blogosphere:
Carney-Nunes, who writes children's books and was a year behind Obama at Harvard Law School, watched as strangers posted her personal information on the Internet. She read, "You're a dirtbag commie propagandist trying to infect children with your failed Marxist ideology." And "your Obama chant is right out of Africa." And "get ready for a massive attack!!!" And "my friend GLENN BECK will also shove this in your face until justice is served." She made copies (which she shared with The Washington Post) and then deleted the messages, hoping the tornado would set her back down.
"I was fearful," she said. "I was looking over my shoulder." The disrespect for the office of the presidency disturbed her. "I won a contest in college and President Reagan gave me an award, and that signed letter is still hanging in its frame in the foyer of my mother's home. We are very proud of that letter, even though my mother didn't vote for him."
After a few days, with the outcry expanding to calls for the school principal and district superintendent to be fired, Carney-Nunes issued a statement through a publicist saying that she "did not write, create, teach or lead the song about President Obama in the video," and that "the song was presented to her by a teacher and students as a demonstration of a project that the children had previously put together." The district superintendent gave the same account in a letter sent home to parents.
Carney-Nunes said an associate of hers videotaped the children's performance and later uploaded it, along with video and photos from other of her readings, to Carney-Nunes's YouTube account.
An e-mail to Malkin Saturday seeking comment was not answered.
Carney-Nunes spends a lot of her free time teaching children how to bridge divides, but she has no idea how to build a dialogue with those who attacked her.
"How can I talk to those people?" she said. "These are people who persist in believing that Barack Obama is a Muslim, that he isn't a citizen of this country. You tell me: Where is the beginning of that conversation?"
Doesn't the Post realize that this smears conservatives with a very broad brush? In a nod to reality, the Post acknowledges – at this late date – that this wasn’t exactly different than the Bush years:
It has been nearly a year since Barack Obama, running as a uniter and not a divider, was elected president by the largest margin in 20 years. The loop on cable news of thousands of beaming faces in Chicago's Grant Park has given way to a summer and fall of thousands of other faces contorting in defiance and fear. A congressman yelled "You lie!" at the president on national TV. A liberal it off the finger of a conservative during a confrontation over public health insurance. On Friday, just hours after Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Republicans and Democrats were at their battle stations again.
The nation's political discourse seems sour, angry, even dangerous; "uglier than it's ever been" is a phrase often volunteered -- as if President George W. Bush had never been depicted as Hitler, declared a dunce and heckled by Code Pink during his second inaugural address.
But the Post didn’t find that "dangerous" during those years. They wrote syrupy Style section profiles of Code Pink, like this one, headlined "Protesting for Peace With A Vivid Hue and Cry / Code Pink’s Tactics: Often Theatrical, Always Colorful."
It’s notoriously uncivil to paint a Hitler moustache on a president. But Gerhart paints the fascist facial hair on Malkin and the Tea Party movement by comparing them to Father Coughlin and his follower Gerald L.K. Smith:
"There are enough good people who believe in the flag and the Bible to seize and control the Government of America! . . . We must make our choice in the presence of atheistic Communistic influences! It is Tammany or Independence Hall! It is the Russian primer or the Holy Bible! It is the Red Flag or the Stars and Stripes! It is Lenin or Lincoln -- Stalin or Jefferson!" [Italics theirs.]
That rousing call to action against a president could be stripped straight from the Web sites of today's Tea Party protesters, and it brought lusty cheers from 10,000 Americans outraged over what they perceived as invasive federal power.
It was the summer of 1936, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt was seeking his second term as president. He already had closed the banks in an effort to pry the country out of the Depression and established the sweeping safety net of the New Deal. Gerald L.K. Smith, the minister who delivered that jeremiad at a third-party convention in Cleveland, was merely a warm-up act for the invective to come from the Rev. Charles Edward Coughlin. An early Roosevelt supporter, Coughlin turned on the president and depicted him as a tool of the devil in weekly radio addresses that reached 40 million people. Still, Roosevelt won by a landslide.
Gerhart also finds leftists to suggest the Tea Party crowd is fringy and racist:
The rancor is simultaneously lucrative -- ideologues are the millionaire kings and queens of cable and radio ratings and book sales -- and unsettling to those in the center of the American electorate, who dislike the political sniping and often tune it out. Obama's approval rating is 53 percent, the same as the percentage of the vote he won last year.
One noteworthy change is that the face of the federal government is African American for the first time, a factor that heightens animus in some and protectiveness in others.
"We've come a long way," said civil rights icon Dorothy Height, who attended the Black Family Reunion, which took place alongside the national Tea Party protest on Sept. 12. "But I stood on the National Mall watching people pass by carrying posters of Uncle Sam in blackface and I said, 'There's still a lot of work to be done in this country.' "
"Completely false allegations incubate in the fringe and jump within days to the mainstream, distorting any debate or progress we can have as a society," said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which released a report last month noting a rise in the "militia movement" over the past year. "What's different is that a great deal of this is real fear and frustration at very real demographic and cultural changes."
[Images from Zombietime.]