In the last week, the Romney campaign got a taste of some of the same treatment from the mainstream media that has afflicted Republicans for decades. The GOP candidate’s foreign trip was widely lampooned. The substantive issues he discussed in Israel and Poland were buried underneath a torrent of ridicule because of his Olympics gaffe as well as the media’s blind acceptance of the false idea he had misspoken about the Palestinians. Some of the frustration of the Romney camp became visible today in Warsaw, when a staffer blew up as reporters shouted questions at the candidate as he left a wreath at the Polish Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The irony is, as Politico reports, members of the media had their own beef with Romney because he has largely stiffed them on the trip, affording them virtually no opportunities to ask questions or interact with the man they are covering. There are some lessons to be learned here for the Romney campaign, though those in his camp may be too mad about the poor treatment their guy has gotten to pay attention. Nevertheless, now would be a good time for them to remember that while they cannot undo liberal media bias, there are better ways to cope with it. Indeed, the choice for every Republican or conservative is pretty much the same as it has always been. Romney can try and be a Ronald Reagan, and he and his team can present a positive face to the country and the media no matter how badly he’s treated, or he can be another Richard Nixon and scowl and fight with the press.
I think we all know which of those two scenarios will work out better, so here are four easy rules for coping with the problem of media bias that Romney and every Republican ought to follow:
Polish Anti-Communist and Nobel Peace Laureate Lech Walesa embraced Mitt Romney’s candidacy during his visit to Poland this week, but later added that Romney has to work a bit on his charisma. Still, it’s a pretty good pickup for the Romney campaign:
“I wish you to be successful because this success is needed to the United States, of course, but to Europe and the rest of the world, too,” Walesa said through a translator. “Gov. Romney, get your success. Be successful!”
The endorsement of a U.S. presidential challenger, unusual in its boldness, was particularly eyebrow-raising in light of Walesa’s refusal to meet with Obama on his visit to Poland one year ago.
Lech Walesa has had a fairly public feud with Obama, so this won’t come as a total surprise. Last month, the White House rejected requests from Polish officials that Walesa accept the President’s Medal of Freedom for the late Jan Karski, who was honored posthumously for his activism with the Polish Underground and testimony about the Holocaust. The reason? Walesa was apparently “too political,” according to the administration. The Nobel Peace recipient has also criticized Obama’s policies and declined to meet with the president during one of his visits to Poland.
The Washington Post’s Scott Wilson has published his account of Mitt Romney’s trip abroad, focusing on the GOP candidate’s time in Israel. It is an editorial disguised as a story–common for presidential campaigns–and includes snarky asides unworthy of lefty blog posts, let alone newspaper reporting. But the crux of the problem for Wilson is identified in the headline: he calls Romney’s comments about Palestinian culture “puzzling.” Because he does not quote anyone in the story calling those comments “puzzling,” it’s clear from the context that Wilson is the puzzled one.
So let’s help him out a bit. Of Romney’s comments on Palestinian culture as one factor in the lagging Palestinian economy, Wilson writes:
The assessment is one not widely shared within Israel, and suggested a lack of sustained study or nuanced understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.
Wilson does not provide any attribution to back that statement up, probably because it is demonstrably false. It is, in fact, quite easy to find those in Israel and their democratically-elected government officials expressing this idea. But perhaps we should ask the Palestinians what they think. In 1994, at the beginning of the Oslo process but decades after the Six-Day War created the current geopolitical setting, Eyad El-Sarraj, the founder and director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, wrote the following:
Palestinians have to address taboos and bring into the open ideological, cultural and political weaknesses which have infiltrated their national movement and seriously damaged their individual and collective awareness. They have to address their dependency on the outside world, their self-indulgent image of the victim, their own cycle of violence and oppression, their conflict between religious and secular identity, and the erosion of their national identity. Above all they have to confront the loss of the dream of liberating all of Palestine and the accompanying grief. They will have to exercise democratic debate and respect the right to oppose. Only then will a new style of political and community leadership evolve.
After committing the supposedly awful gaffe of saying what everyone was thinking–there were some “disconcerting” indicators in the run-up to the London Olympics–Mitt Romney has now once again told the truth, this time in Israel, only to have the press eagerly jump all over him for another supposed “gaffe.” This is what Gov. Romney (to whom I am, full disclosure, a defense adviser) said, as summed up by Politico:
“As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality,” the Republican presidential candidate told about 40 wealthy donors who ate breakfast at the luxurious King David Hotel.
Romney said the economic history of the world has shown that “culture makes all the difference.”
“And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things,” Romney said, citing an innovative business climate, the Jewish history of thriving in difficult circumstances and the “hand of providence.” He said similar disparity exists between neighboring countries, like Mexico and the United States.
This drew an outraged reaction from veteran Palestinian processor Saeb Erekat who claimed: “It is a racist statement and this man doesn’t realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation.”
The British press had knives out for Mitt Romney before he even arrived in London, but the pile-on over his Olympics comment and some other (questionable) gaffes has still been surprisingly excessive. Says Piers Morgan on Romney’s Olympics remark: “He was just speaking the truth which can sometimes be rather unpalatable.” Morgan defended the candidate on CNN (via HotAir):
The issue isn’t whether Romney’s comments were accurate; it’s whether they were appropriate. Clearly the Brits didn’t think so, and that’s what counts. The Obama campaign is loving this, since it plays right into the whole “Romney is Bush” theme — voters don’t really want America to be despised in Europe like it was under G.W., right? Forget the fact that Obama’s insults have been far worse in degree: removing Churchill’s bust from the Oval Office, giving the Queen an iPod full of First Family photos, etc. He’s still a liberal Democrat, which apparently gets him some leeway with the British press.