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NYT Pummels Romney, Ignores Obama

On Sunday, the front page of the New York Times contained a 2,300 word story exploring Ann Romney’s passion for horse-riding. Among the “revelations” unearthed by the Gray Lady’s crack investigative team was that Ann Romney took up dressage as therapy for her multiple sclerosis, and that Mitt helped select the music that his wife’s coach had ridden to in competitions. Explosive stuff.

Not to be outdone, earlier this month the Washington Post caused a stir when it aired allegations that Mitt Romney had bullied a high school classmate fifty years ago. The story consumed most of the front page and left Romney looking like an insensitive jerk. Meanwhile, reports that Barack Obama had smoked copious amounts of marijuana during college (the story, by David Maraniss, included details that Obama was part of a “Choom Gang” that ensured not an ounce of pot ever went to waste) barely rated a mention in either the Post or the Times. The Obama-the-stoner story landed on page A6 of the Post; it was buried in A15 of the Times.

It’s a double standard that has conservatives riled up, notes Politico:

No wonder Republicans are livid with the early coverage of the 2012 general election campaign. To them, reporters are scaring up stories to undermine the introduction of Mitt Romney to the general election audience—and once again downplaying ones that could hurt the president.

“The New York Times has given Obama the longest wet kiss in political history, and they have done him a favor again,” former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said. “The New York Times does a huge expose that Ann Romney rides horses. Well, so does my wife, and a few million other people. Watch out for equine performers!”

Republicans cry “bias” so often it feels like a campaign theme. It is, largely because it fires up conservatives and diminishes the punch of legitimate investigative or narrative journalism. But it also is because it often rings true, even to people who don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh—or Haley Barbour.

Of course, part of the harsh scrutiny Romney is now experiencing comes with the territory. As a challenger in a presidential campaign in the modern media environment, Romney—unlike Obama—has not yet had every aspect of his life exhumed in microscopic detail by a ravenous press corps. But this scrutiny is heightened for a Republican who does not get the benefit of the doubt that many in the press corps grant to his liberal opponent. It is a double standard, but one Romney must overcome if he is to win in November.

And while the Romney campaign may have a legitimate case to cry foul—how his wife’s penchant for horse-riding is relevant to anything escapes the Via Meadia political unit—it also reflects Romney’s inability to explain to the American people who the man behind the perfect hair really is. In the absence of any clear definition of who Romney is from the campaign itself, a mainstream media already predisposed against Republican candidates will be left to fill the space with its own fears and fantasies.

Some candidates for high office are more at ease with talking about themselves than others. Clearly, Romney is not one of them. As one of Romney’s friends recently told the Washington Post, “Mitt doesn’t have an instinct to be open in his personal life.” It is an instinct the former governor must develop, and soon. If Mitt Romney cannot find a way to talk about himself, the Obama campaign and cheerleaders in the media will gleefully fill the void.

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  • Matthew Brotchie

    Watch out for an upcoming documentary from VICE, showing the current war between Mormon polygamist colonies and the drug cartels in Mexico, where Romney’s father was born. I’m sure the media will have some fun with that one.

  • Walter Sobchak

    For me, some of the NYTimes articles have had the opposite of their intended effect.

    They ran one revealing that Romney is a close personal friend of Bibi Netanyahu. And that their friendship long predated the involvement of either of them in electoral politics.

    The article was intended to be a slam on Romney. What PC thinking Upper Left Sider would want to be friends with the ickiest man in Israel. There were also hand wringing quotes from the the usual Obama shills about outsourcing US foreign policy to Israel.

    The article made this Zionist feel a lot better about Mitt Romney as a man and as a potential President.

  • Kenny

    Now remind me again… exactly who and how many of them are there who reads the NYTimes?

    The paper is (and has been for years) inconsquencial. It can influence very, very few. Fact

  • Brian

    “Romney—unlike Obama—has not yet had every aspect of his life exhumed in microscopic detail by a ravenous press corps.”

    Unlike Obama? When did Obama have reporters interviewing his high school and college friends looking for a scoop? How come his pot-smoking group from high school doesn’t get a 5000 word front page WaPo article? And just where are Obama’s college transcripts? Outside of the new biography, have any reporters covered Michelle’s feud with Oprah?

    Obama’s life has only been exhumed for positive features so far, outside the right-blogosphere.

  • Kris

    “NYT Pummels Romney, Ignores Obama”

    I eagerly anticipate the day I too will have this luxury.

  • Data

    Prof. Mead’s take on Romney — as a good man who hasn’t yet told his story, and who will be eaten alive by a 21st-century US mainstream media that too often acts like the Democrats’ PR machine if he doesn’t — is an interesting and, I think, accurate take on the early dynamics of the campaign.

    Romney’s reluctance to make this a campaign about “me” and tell “his story” relentlessly is reminiscent of many of the politicians we had until the 1930s: a stolid, straight-arrow, no-chit-chat Yankee type. A responsible citizen and parent. Not the most interesting or exotic of personalities, because his interests are in fulfilling his responsibilities and providing for his family rather than hiking K2, giving himself a mohawk, or experimenting with New Age remedies. Nobody knows much about the personal stories of James Monroe or John Quincy Adams, and that’s fine; for them, work and obligation came before having a “compelling narrative.”

    In this and other ways, Romney is a classic, taciturn Yankee. You can take that as a negative or a positive (for me, it’s a distinct positive to have in a politician in nearly-bankrupt America).

    The upshot is that Romney, like many Mormons (who in my experience are the most cheesily culturally traditional American people out there despite the suspicion that they are greeted with by many that they are somehow “un-American”), is a throwback to an older type of American. I don’t know if this archetype of American ever really existed, but Romney (and many Mormons I know) go further toward filling it than does any other cross-section of the population. The soft-spoken, hard-working, no-cussing, God-fearing, active-in-civil-society self-reliant type, pragmatic and successful in private business and somewhat wary of the government.

    This stands in contrast to Obama, a man who never really seems to have had a “real” job or one that he worked at for very long or very successfully. Whose entire campaign in 2008 was about his “promise as an individual” (backed by 2 autobiographies on the theme!) rather than his success as a responsible or effective executive. Sadly, after having 4 years in which he could have achieved something widely viewed as a positive by the general electorate, Obama’s campaign once again seems to be returning to the “compelling lifestory” tack … with some more ad hominem, scorched-earth tactics thrown in against his opponent this time around.

    As a representative of the “Millennial” generation (repulsive label that it is), here’s hoping that America decides — after its 40-year, Baby Boomer-inflicted egoism and divorce from reponsibility — to return to the Yankee values that made us into a successful nation and steps back a bit from the Baby Boomer values that have made us an “interesting” one.

  • WigWag

    Some college or university somewhere really should recognize Professor Mead with a doctor of disingenuity honoris causa.

    Does he really think that the piece that the New York Times wrote about Mrs. Romney’s interest in dressage is so unprecedented?

    What about the newspaper’s obsession during the 2008 campaign with the expensive taste that Michelle Obama had in clothes? Perhaps Professor Mead missed this little ditty from almost exactly four years ago (June 8, 2008)

    “What grabbed the eye was the sleeveless purple silk crepe sheath made for Mrs. Obama by Maria Pinto, the former Geoffrey Beene assistant who has long been an Obama favorite. Simple in silhouette and, at about $900 retail, not the kind of garment most working-class voters can reasonably aspire to, the dress was immediately subject to water cooler dissection.”

    It would be easy to cite a hundred more examples of the Times pointing out Mrs. Obama’s expensive tastes.

    Does Professor Mead really not remember the fun the Times had pointing out John Kerry’s penchant for polo and yachting or his wife Teresa’s immense wealth? Could it be that Professor Mead missed this expose during the 2004 Campaign (October 13, 2004) about Ms Hines-Kerry’s love affair with French sauces?

    “At lunchtime in her grand old house surrounded by maples just beginning to turn, the fragrances wafting from the kitchen where Teresa Heinz Kerry taught her three sons to cook were so tempting it was difficult to concentrate on the expressionist paintings from the 1960’s on the walls of the living room…The source of the tantalizing aromas was one of Mrs. Heinz Kerry’s favorite dishes, a fish soup. It was simmering on a Wolf stove in a kitchen filled with all the modern accouterments of the serious cook: a huge center island with a granite top, a Sub-Zero refrigerator; copper pots hanging from the ceiling. A rosemary bush sat on a table inlaid with old blue and white Portuguese tiles…The wife of Senator John Kerry, the Democratic candidate for president, talks as knowledgably about food safety as she does about classic French sauces…”I used to have 80 head of cattle,” she said. I used to feed them a little grain, but now they are all grass fed with alfalfa because of studies that show that animals that feed on grass have high levels of C.L.A.’s, conjugated linoleic acids or nutrients that are believed by some New Zealand scientists, she said, to reduce heart attacks and cholesterol levels.”

    And of course we shouldn’t forget the coverage of Al Gore’s campaign. Has Professor Mead forgotten the deep concern of the Times with the way that candidate Gore dressed? If so, perhaps he should pull out his computer and Google the name “Naomi Wolf.” If he does, he might find an article from October 31, 1999 that says this,

    “Vice President Al Gore has been paying Naomi Wolf, the feminist author, thousands of dollars a month to help him figure out how to become the top dog…Ms. Wolf has been telling Mr. Gore that he is a beta male, a subordinate figure, and must learn to become the alpha male, or leader of the pack, before the public can accept him as president, according to a report in the new issue of Time magazine…Alpha males dominate and lead other members of the pack, while beta males are subordinate and play a helpmate role. According to Time, Ms. Wolf has argued within the Gore campaign that Mr. Gore is a ‘beta male’ who needs to take on the alpha male in the Oval Office before the public will see him as the top dog.”

    Of course, the Times loved George W. Bush and hated Al Gore even though Gore was on the left and Bush was on the right. Perhaps that’s why they published Maureen Dowd’s famous column where she said,

    “George Bush is all swagger, with macho campaign accessories of custom-made ostrich-leather black cowboy boots with G.W.B. emblazoned and a huge belt buckle with Gov. George W. Bush, as well as baseball statistics, pork and beans and a Betty Crocker wife…Al Gore is so feminized and diversified and ecologically correct, he’s practically lactating.” Professor Mead can read the whole thing if he bothers to go here,

    Whatever the Times political proclivities, the idea that the newspaper is treating Ann Romney more shabbily because she is a Republican than they treated the wives of Democratic candidates is simply naive and wrong.

    It is getting progressively more difficult to know whether many of the Via Meadia posts are the work product of Professor Mead himself or the youngsters who intern for him; I suppose that’s the idea.

    But if this post was authored by Professor Mead, he should know better. He was an adult when the New York Times was covering the wives of candidates like Michelle Obama and Teresa Hines-Kerry. He was also an adult when the Times tried to trick the public into thinking that the “feminized” Al Gore was running to become America’s first female President.

    If the post was authored by one of the youngsters, perhaps they can’t be blamed; after all, they were probably only in middle school during those campaigns. Presumably though, one would have thought that they would be inquisitive enough to utilize the search function on the Times’ website to see how the newspaper covered other political wives.

  • Gene

    So our host believes Obama has “had every aspect of his life exhumed in microscopic detail by a ravenous press corps.”

    Astonishing. WRM, I am a big fan of yours, but it really is possible to shred your own credibility in an instant.

  • stan

    The press worked harder to tell dig up everything on Joe the Plumber than they did Obama. Compare and contrast the reporting on Palin with that on Obama.

    Mainstream journalism has become a competition between corruption and incompetence as to which will destroy it first. The tipping point has probably been reached. Corruption is now trying hard to edge out incompetence in taking credit for the inevitable demise when the history gets written.

  • Mark in Texas

    “No wonder Republicans are livid with the early coverage of the 2012 general election campaign.”

    I really don’t believe that there are that many Republicans with enough respect for the New York Times and Washington Post to be livid about any of their Democrat partisan shenanigans.

    The attitude of most is similar to seeing some crazed homeless person urinating and defecating in his pants as he screams incoherent rants at the world. It is sad and disgusting but certainly not something to be livid about because nobody expects anything better from them.

    “Livid” implies a lot more respect than those organizations are entitled to.

  • thibaud

    “It is an instinct the former governor must develop, and soon. If Mitt Romney cannot find a way to talk about himself, the Obama campaign and cheerleaders in the media will gleefully fill the void.”

    This is on target. Despite the pummeling, as it were, that WRM is taking in the Comments section from both sides of the divide, he’s absolutely right that politics isn’t fair and that you either define yourself or others will define you.

    Romney is in danger of being Dukakis’ed. Both were competent governors, decent public servants with lots of intelligent ideas – and dull as dishwater.

    I don’t just mean the Cadillac remarks, but the substantive whoppers as well.

    As with Dukakis’s inability to respond to the question about violent crime as it might affect his family, Romney shows a remarkable tin ear when it comes to ordinary people’s struggles with those deeply screwed-up aspects of American life today, specifically the solicitude our elites show for the TBTF banksters and the for-profit health insurance mafia.

    For example, it’s one thing to attack some of the absurdities of Obamacare and suggest a better solution.

    But it’s another thing entirely to perpetuate the nasty fiction that American families with “pre-existing conditions” – that ridiculous, only-in-America concocted phrase of the for-profit health insurance goons – are somehow trying to scam their way into benefits they do not need or deserve.

    This is beyond insulting. It demonstrates that, beyond his mastery of powerpoint summaries and abstract data points, Romney doesn’t have a clue as to how and why ordinary American families are so upset with our political elites’ tender solicitude for the profits of the private health insurance mafia, or why s.t. like 80% of the public supports ending the insurers’ “pre-existing condition” scam.

    Then there’s ordinary Americans’ anger at our pols’ deep concern for the profits and survival of the TBTF banksters.

    Again, Romney is Dukakis-like in his failure to even recognize that his fortune depended in no small measure upon favorable tax treatment of corporate debt, ie one of many bankster-friendly political decisions that our elite has deliberately chosen with little public scrutiny or debate.

    The point here is that ordinary Americans – those of us who people who “work hard and play by the rules” – have a deep concern for elemental fairness, which is absent from the efficiency-centric prism of a lifelong private equity guy.

    Everyone makes mistakes. Romney has done this once on a major issue. If he keeps on doing it, he will permanently alienate not only this moderate-voter household but millions of others across the country, and he will meet the same fate as Dukakis and Kerry.

  • Corlyss

    Neither story is relevant to the issues. Not the Anne Romney story. Not the Obama Stoner in Chief.

    What kind of free press is this? It belongs in the category of happy-talk “Firemen rescue kitten” stories.

  • Kebert Xela

    I hate ANYONE who had a pony. For I had no pony. Though I dislike horses, more do I dislike my relative lack of one.

  • Jim Shuey

    I thought the story was kind of an interesting side-light on a candidate’s wife and an activity neither of which I knew much about. Didn’t really see it as a hit piece at all.

  • Jim.

    @5, Kris-

    Amen to that! 🙂

    @6, Data-

    You nailed it, there. The sooner America gets back to business and rejects the cloying, creepy “feel your pain” type of political panderer, the sooner America gets back on its feet.

    To [perdition] with “identity politics”. Let’s see something solid here.

  • Otis McWrong

    “Romney—unlike Obama—has not yet had every aspect of his life exhumed in microscopic detail by a ravenous press corps.”

    It’s probably been said already but when exactly did this microscopic examination of Obama take place? Obama’s background has received less inspection BY FAR than any candidate in my life time (the first election I was old enough to pay attention to was Carter/Ford). This is all the more galling considering nobody had even heard of Obama until the mid 2000’s.

  • SC Mike

    Ah, horses! The “report” on Ann Romney’s horses reminds me of the coverage of Jackie and Caroline Kennedy and their horses. Exactly the same, no?

    Is the NYT setting us up for another Camelot?

    Probably not.

  • Kris

    WigWag@7: You may be right. How unfortunate then that out of “hundreds of examples,” you chose such problematic ones to illustrate the claim that the NYT treatment of Ann Romney is unexceptional. The story about Michelle Obama’s clothes? In the Fashion and Style section. The Heinz Kerry kitchen story? In the Dining and Wine section. Whereas Ann Romney’s horsies? A1. A1?!

    Kebert@13: 🙂

  • Corlyss

    @WigWag –
    “Some college or university somewhere really should recognize Professor Mead with a doctor of disingenuity honoris causa.”


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