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Jewish World Review
May 16, 2012/ 24 Iyar, 5772
Obama a bully, too
Back when he was in high school, Mitt Romney joined with others in what sounds like a pretty nasty bullying episode, and that's too bad and I hate it. I wish he were perfect from the day he was born, with absolutely no regrettable adolescent moments. The rest of us had none, right?
Here is something I wish even more: that Obama's henchmen would stop their bullying of American citizens today and that major media would rid themselves of partiality and learn what is and is not important.
My point is hardly that a Washington Post story about Romney leading others to forcibly cut a fellow student's bleached-blond hair was not worth reporting at all, perhaps even as part of an analysis looking at how he evolved into the person that it seems to me he grew up to be.
Search out other biographical pieces and you will discover how Romney buoyed fellow students in graduate school. You will learn how he singlehandedly took on a drunken French rugby team to rescue two harassed women. You will see how his decisive, caring actions as head of a company may have saved the life of a partner's endangered daughter. My own estimation is that he became self-sacrificing and even heroic over time.
But this was not a deep, contextual piece, or a short article reserved for back pages. It was a tabloid-style rendering splashed across the Post's front page. You had to read the first paragraph at least three times to believe what the writer was doing. He was telling us what was in Romney's mind some 47 years ago, as if he were a fiction writer assuming a third-person, omniscient point of view. Of course, maybe it was fiction, or maybe the writer thought he was God.
You knew The New York Times would get there soon enough, seeing as how the paper four years ago printed a front-page rumor that Republican presidential candidate John McCain had had an affair with a female lobbyist. The excuse seemed to be that he had a conflict of interest with this lobbyist, but it is an excuse that limps, finally collapses and can never be resuscitated. Reputable newspapers do not print rumors to justify a slanderous hypothesis. The paper later more or less said it did not mean for readers to believe the rumor. Oh, now I get it.
Anyway, the Times also ran the Romney bullying story on the front page a day after the Post did, playing it underneath a story about President Barack Obama finally saying he supports gay marriage. The idea of the juxtaposition is that Obama has compassion for gay victims while Romney gives unwanted haircuts to guys later said to be gay. I do not detect alert journalism here. I detect bias, bringing me to Stanford University professor Tim Groseclose.
In his extraordinary, scientifically convincing book, "Left Turn," he shows just how prejudiced most news outlets are. He further argues the public is influenced to the extent that, without left-wing bias, McCain would have won the 2008 presidential election by 56 percent of the vote to 42 percent for Barack Obama instead of losing by seven percentage points.
To get to something current, something clearly meaningful, something that tells you about the presidential candidates in the here and now, note research by the Wall Street Journal's Kimberly Strassel, decidedly not left-wing. The columnist has observed that an Obama campaign website had "named and shamed eight private citizens who had donated to his opponent," accusing them of horrible deeds like, you know, making money from the oil business.
Strassel makes the point that a president has enormous power to ruin lives and that, when people act on his behalf to castigate citizens participating in the political system, it can be seriously threatening. That's an assault on all of us, and that's the kind of bullying that ought to be getting Page 1 attention every day until it stops or the voters have spoken.
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Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.
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