Has the Washington Post found its new “macaca,” the journalistic storyline to steer Virginia voters away from a GOP candidate?
In 2006, the District’s major paper printed a rash of stories recounting something then-Sen. George Allen said during a public event about an opponent‘s staffer. The paper used Allen’s use of the word “macaca” as a cudgel to bludgeon his re-election chances.
And it worked.
The stories blanketed the paper, from the historical derivations of the word “macaca” to Allen’s attempts to explain precisely what he meant.
Here’s the Aug. 15, 2006 Washington Post article’s initial attempt to whip up a fury around the word.
“Depending on how it is spelled, the word macaca could mean either a monkey that inhabits the Eastern Hemisphere or a town in South Africa. In some European cultures, macaca is also considered a racial slur against African immigrants, according to several Web sites that track ethnic slurs.”
Wow. Talk about a stretch to find insult where none belonged.
Now, the newspaper has unearthed a decades old college thesis from gubernatorial GOP hopeful Robert F. McDonnell. And – given the multiple stories it’s already run – the paper thinks McDonnell’s thesis – written 25 years ago — could affect the balance of the race.
McDonnell currently leads Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds by at least seven points in a recent poll.
Can the Post serve as a political kingmaker again for the Old Dominion State? Or will a feisty alternative media rise up to stop any attempts to turn a college assignment into a campaign killer? And if so, why didn’t the paper pull out all the stops regarding another candidate’s past?
If memory serves, a Democrat Senator running for the highest office in the land last year admitted to doing cocaine in his youth, spent 20 years worshiping with an anti-American, anti-Israel reverend, had that very same reverend officiate his wedding and started his political career at the home of an unrepentant terrorist?
Turns out old news is only old when it applies to one particular party, or The One.
In Sunday’s widely read edition of the Washington Post, the paper reported on the 1989 college thesis McDonnell penned.
The 93-page thesis by McDonnell, the state’s former Attorney General and a 14-year member of the General Assembly, included his disdain for working moms and contraception for unmarried couples, support of traditional marriage tenets and other positions which depict him to the far right of his party.
The story, to be fair, let McDonnell defend himself:
"Virginians will judge me on my 18-year record as a legislator and Attorney General and the specific plans I have laid out for our future — not on a decades-old academic paper I wrote as a student during the Reagan era and haven’t thought a bout in years."
But the article quickly began connecting the dots, showing how some of what McDonnell wrote helped shape future policy decisions.
Since the Aug. 30 article hit the newsstands, the newspaper has published a rash of follow-up stories:
“Governor’s race erupts over McDonnell’s past views” (A1)
“Bob McDonnell, Culture Warrior”
“Deeds camp keeps pounding on McDonnell’s thesis”
And two blog entries:
“Kaine has ‘grave concerns‘ about McDonnell‘s thesis”
“Down ticket GOP candidates on McDonnell‘s thesis”
And this is just two days’ worth of stories following the initial article. One gets the sense the newspaper and its crack staff are only warming to the task at hand.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev), just wished a hometown newspaper out of existence, but that wasn’t deemed newsworthy to the Post. Type “Reid” into the paper’s web site search engine and no stories appear regarding the incident.
And don’t expect the paper to follow up on Reid’s repugnant behavior, unless alternative media outlets crank up the heat enough to force the editors’ hands.
Tim Graham, director of media analysis with the conservative Media Research Center, says the Post’s approach is hardly new.
During the 2006 senatorial race, the Post concentrated on the Macaca line while portraying the incumbent’s opponent, Jim Webb, as the “Shakespeare of the Blue Ridge Mountains,” Graham recalls. The paper also harped on then Gov. Jim Gilmore’s personal property tax imbroglio.
“This is a longstanding pattern on state-wide elections,” he says.
The Post, as well as other mainstream outlets, weren’t eager to cover First Lady Michelle Obama’s Princeton thesis in which she suggested she wasn’t comfortable being a black person on campus. Nor did the media dig to uncover President Obama’s Columbia college thesis.
“It seems to me they’re huddling with consultants in deciding which way they’re going to get the Democrat elected,” he says. “What’s disturbing to a lot of readers is when a newspaper just seems to go along with the Democratic spin of the day.”