Turning reality upside down is easy when you live in the world of people like actress Janeane Garofalo, who proclaimed on MSNBC just hours after the inauguration festivities: "George W. Bush is unelectable, in my opinion." This isn't dissent. It's beyond denial. Welcome to liberal dementia.
Like so many other journalists in the pre-inauguration buildup, Washington Post reporter Manny Fernandez filed several stories on bitter inauguration protesters. And like the vast majority of his colleagues, Fernandez chose not to give his readers the slightest clue just how kooky the "protest community" was. (Perhaps because these paragons of journalism don't find these nuts to be that strange after all.) In one story, it took until paragraph 16 for Fernandez to admit any ideology: "Bush has been a popular target for left-leaning activists since he took office."
"Left-leaning" is hardly an accurate description for the exotic socialists like International ANSWER, described by the Post as simply "an anti-war, anti-racism coalition." Their call to protest the inauguration wildly stated our president "is determined to maintain U.S. occupation and aggression against Cuba, Haiti, Afghanistan, Korea, the Philippines, Sudan, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Colombia and other countries." (Somehow, at least on Planet ANSWER, we have ruthlessly ousted Fidel Castro and taken over Cuba.) The Post story excluded the itty-bitty fact that the coalition's leader, Ramsey Clark, signed up on Dec. 29 as part of the legal defense team for Saddam Hussein.
Isn't that a relevant factor in determining where ANSWER stands on the war and human rights? Wouldn't it be fair to conclude this pro-Saddam lobby is anti-American, not anti-war? Shouldn't this lobby have to contend with press questions about its agenda? Try to find a Washington Post story on Ramsey Clark's newest job. There isn't one. The Post did mention him in January, but only as part of a legalize-marijuana lobby.
The same omission occurred in the New York Times, somehow falling outside the slogan about all the news that was fit to print. This is where Clark is deemed fit to print: On Dec. 21, the Times metro section celebrated a local bakery, including the fact that "Ramsey Clark, the civil rights lawyer, wrote the bakery a letter from Paris saying its croissants were better than those he was then eating."
The morning after the inauguration, New York Times reporter Michael Janofsky issued a very kind article about demonstrators "reveling" in the protests, reporting on Clark as merely an "antiwar figure" who was merely LBJ's attorney general -- not a tyrant's best legal friend. Janofsky quoted Clark rambling to assembled protesters about how impeaching Bush "now is essential to the integrity of the U.S. government and the people of the United States."
In a healthy democracy, we make space for irony: allowing exotic totalitarians who revere dictatorships to rail hysterically against our duly elected leaders. The Bush inaugural committee went so far to make a space in the parade route for them to spew on Pennsylvania Avenue. But why would our supposedly free speech-worshiping press not recognize or report that Ramsey Clark and his groupies are and have been committed to the prevention of democracy and free speech in Iraq?
Does our press really revere and support these ideals as they spread? It was easy for them to wink at each other, suggesting the president's inaugural words about freedom were just high-faluting claptrap. But they are the ones who seem to have zero commitment to helping democracy flower in places like Iraq or Afghanistan, where American blood and treasure have been spent furthering the noble goals of freedom. They have put objectivity and balance aside for liberal causes they love. But to them, these goals aren't noble, but just a slate of cynical talking points for politicians they oppose.
They won't even present unfolding democracy in a plainly factual matter without pessimism. As Iraqis make a historic trip to the polls (including exiles voting in a number of American cities), the press should ask themselves how much time and space they have made for that dawning electoral process. Our TV news stars have barely given us a clue they know who the Iraqi candidates or parties are. All they've done for weeks is agitate for the insurgency's goal of delaying the elections, or suggest that even when elections happen, the Iraqi future will remain a hopeless mess. Precisely what the insurgents wanted from the American media is what they're getting.
If they really loved freedom and democracy, the American media elite would show us Iraqi candidates willing to risk death for it, and Iraqi journalists who are building a new hopeful, accountable political system in the midst of chaos. But they can't abide sounding just a bit more like President Bush and less like the radicals marching around with kooks like Ramsey Clark.