Perhaps Mitt Romney played it right when he was meek and contrite in response to the Washington Post's front-page allegations that he bullied a kid half a century ago in high school.
Romney no doubt feels embarrassed by the charges, even if most of us struggle to understand their relevance or gauge their veracity. But the time is coming for Romney to get angry, very angry, with what is increasingly, quaintly called "the mainstream media."
The Post's decision to play up the story as if it were major news -- front page, thousands of drably dull self-serious words piled high to elevate and justify the one buzzy nugget -- is an embarrassment. It was clearly intended to link Romney to the new progressive cause: fighting anti-gay bullying, in the context of President Obama's "sudden" support for gay marriage. It was naked advocacy gussied up as journalistic due diligence.
It was also a significant error -- if you work from the assumption (as I do) that the Post and other mainstream media outlets are determined to do what they can to re-elect Obama -- because they tipped their hand too early.
It's always dangerous to ascribe singular purpose to a collective entity like "the media." Of course, there are individual figures who -- despite whatever personal biases they may have -- are trying their best to be fair. But as a generalization, the mainstream media are so deep in the bunker for Obama, they could ride out a nuclear war without having their Jenga tower fall over.
In 2004, John Kerry's war record embellishments and involvement with a radical group that at one time discussed a plot to assassinate U.S. senators who supported the Vietnam War were treated as fixations of the deranged right. Evan Thomas, then of Newsweek, proclaimed what pretty much everyone knew: The press "wants Kerry to win." And that was John Kerry, a man few in Washington like and many consider to be a pompous human toothache.
Obama, meanwhile, is beloved. In 2008, concerns about the man's past were largely brushed aside, ignored or re-spun to fit the acceptable story line.
No doubt some believe that if a Republican candidate had a hate-spewing pastor and associated with an admitted former domestic terrorist, the mainstream media would be equally dismissive. After all, who cares about that? I mean, how can that stack up news value-wise against a 17-year-old hazing a kid at school nearly 50 years ago?
In 2008, the imperative was to clear the field for the first black president. Now that that box has been checked, a new story line is needed. Enter Newsweek. It features Obama with a rainbow-colored halo (because conventional halos are so Republican!), touting him as the "First Gay President."