In a few hours President Barack Obama will trade jokes on the set with David Letterman and then head off to a fundraiser with Jay Z and Beyoncé. At the same time, on the other side of the world, 20 American embassies will be under siege and a total of 65 will be on alert for violence.
The media doesn’t seem to have a problem with it. So, I guess it’s okay. And if Republican challenger Mitt Romney dare say a word of criticism about it, networks and the major newspapers will eviscerate him for being “callous” and “tone deaf.” That’s the way it is in Campaign 2012.
Today the media has been dutifully distracted by a excerpts of a videotape recorded at a May 7 Mitt Romney fundraiser, taken without the permission of Romney or the host of the event. The tape, released now to change the subject, is the lead story on all national newscasts. This as four Americans are killed in Afghanistan, nine are killed in a suicide attack in the same country, and much of the Muslim world is threatening war on America
It has been one week since all hell broke loose in Muslim dominated countries. On the anniversary of 9/11, the American embassy in Tripoli, Egypt was stormed, and a mortar attack set the consulate in Benghazi, Libya on fire, killing four Americans—including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, whose body was dragged from the burned-out building while the crowd cheered.
The excuse for the violence and savagery is a poorly produced YouTube video that depicts the prophet Muhammad as a sex maniac who enjoys mass murder. However, it is becoming alarmingly clear that the protests are about much more than a religious insult.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was quick to criticize a statement, released by the embassy in Cairo, that condemned the film and apologized to the protestors. The media was then quick to criticize Mitt Romney. He was “crass and tone deaf,” in the view of MSNBC’s Chuck Todd. He had committed a “slander” against the president, according to Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic. And the criticism lasted through the Sunday morning talk shows, with Chris Matthews opening his show on NBC with this loaded question: “What made Mitt Romney throw himself head first into a tragic event before he knew all of the facts? Was it to quiet his conservative critics? Was it to push the neo-con line?Was it to fight this 24/7 campaign, even on this dangerous terrain?”
Are they the only choices? Couldn’t it be that Mitt Romney is the Republican standard bearer and the president’s opponent? Isn’t it his job to point out when the administration makes mistakes? Apparently not, according to the media, who ignored the fact that the White House also pulled away from the embassy statement.
The media’s first commandment is clear: Thou shall not take the name of President Obama in vain during this crisis. That goes for everyone, including Mitt Romney.
And so Mitt Romney is not allowed to talk about the crisis, at the same time the president ignores it. With any mention of the violence, Mitt Romney will be accused of playing politics, while the President makes political appearances and campaign fundraisers. The president is allowed to ignore the crisis with the hopes that it will just go away and Mitt Romney must follow suit or be pulverized in print and pontification.
And so as reports surface in the foreign press that the administration was warned three days before the attack in Libya that killed four, the president is allowed to ignore them because the American media is ignoring them. When the president of Libya says the attack was planned and carried out by terrorist groups from other countries, the Obama administration is allowed to deny it through UN ambassador Susan Rice without contention. The public is expected to oblige with a bout of media-induced temporary amnesia that the Pentagon also called the attacks premeditated late last week. And now as as report surfaces this morning that Rice lied when she claimed two of them men killed in the attacks were part of added security, it’s time to release the Romney tape and change the topic.
The whole thing stinks of a campaign-inspired cover-up. At a time when we need the media to ask who knew what and when, they are bullying the president’s opponent into remaining silent in the name of a crisis that the President is pretending does not exist.
The shame is we need a strong and unbiased media at times like this. When I witnessed Susan Rice deny the undeniable on behalf of the White House, I thought of Colin Powell at the UN. The Secretary of State was dispatched by the Bush Administration to sell the Iraq War to the world based on flawed intelligence. Most in the media acknowledge the lack of scrutiny at that time as a low point in American journalism. And yet, here they are doing it again.
Like Nero playing music as Rome burns, the president is allowed to appear on talk shows and fundraisers with stars, conspiring in co-denial with the media, while the world is engulfed in anti-American violence. At a time when the president deserves the most scrutiny, the media are letting us down once again. Enjoy Letterman tonight, as the world burns.