Mitt Romney's 'gaffes' and manufactured controversy

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Mitt Romney's trip abroad was "an embarrassing disaster," said former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. "Amateur hour," said the chair of the Democratic National Committee.

The trip "didn't go well," said Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post. It was "awkward," said Gregory Krieg of ABC News. Mr. Romney "should have stayed home," said Roger Simon of Politico.

The commentary illustrates how little difference there is between Democrat spin and news media "analysis."

Mr. Romney visited three allies dissed by President Barack Obama. Many in Britain were annoyed when he removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office. The president's tilt toward the Palestinians worries Israelis. Poles were alarmed when Mr. Obama abruptly canceled a missile defense treaty.

Mr. Romney's trip got off to a rocky start when NBC News anchor Brian Williams asked him if these games looked "ready." Having run the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002, Mr. Romney could speak with authority.

"There are a few things that were disconcerting, the stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials. That obviously is not something which is encouraging," he replied.

This criticism was absolutely true, and more gently phrased than similar criticisms by journalists. But British politicians took umbrage. Journalists spent the rest of Mr. Romney's trip searching for additional "gaffes."

In Israel, Mr. Romney's "gaffe" was saying the Palestinians' culture contributes to their poverty. That's racist, said a PLO official. Denigrating the Palestinians could cost him, wrote Joshua Greenman in the New York Daily News.

In Poland, the "gaffe" was committed not by the candidate himself, but by an aide who lost his temper with reporters who were shouting questions at Mr. Romney after he laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw.

"In one week abroad, Mitt Romney has managed to enrage both the Brits and the Palestinians. Now add to that roster his own press corps," wrote Dylan Byers of Politico. His was a near universal verdict among journalists, but few facts support it.

Mr. Romney drew large and friendly crowds in Israel. What he said about the Palestinians was absolutely true. Mr. Obama has said similar things. His speech was well-received by Israelis and by Jews in America. It appears to have escaped Mr. Greenman's attention, but there are more Jews than Palestinians in America, and the Israelis are more popular here with most non-Jews.

In Poland, Mr. Romney also drew large and friendly crowds. He was embraced by former Polish President Lech Walesa, an international hero for his struggle to free Poland from Communism.

Mr. Romney's speeches in Jerusalem and Warsaw resembled those of Ronald Reagan, both in what he said and in how he said it. He described, eloquently, the principles upon which his foreign policy would be based, and how it would differ from Mr. Obama's. This, I suspect, is why so little of what he said was reported.

No matter what Mr. Romney did or said, most journalists would have called his trip a failure. Their foremost goal is the president's re-election. They know this can happen only if Americans think the alternative is worse. So they denigrate Mr. Romney at every opportunity.

Before the Olympic security "gaffe" overshadowed it, the "gaffe" journalists pounced on was a statement by a Romney adviser that he would restore "Anglo Saxon" values to the special relationship between the U.S. and the U.K. That there's been a special relationship, and that Britain and her former colonies have made unique contributions to civilization is indisputably true. But, critics say, it's "racist" to point this out.

Journalists manufacture such controversies, because the real news isn't helpful to Mr. Obama.

Mr. Romney has to figure out how to deal with journalists in the tank for his opponent. He has a big problem.

But the increasingly obvious bias of journalists has not gone unnoticed. Trust in television news is at an all-time low. CNN -- which bills itself as "the most trusted name in news" -- has lost 23 percent of its viewers.

For politicians who lose in November, there will be other elections. But the "mainstream" media may never regain what it is throwing away.

jackkelly

Jack Kelly is a columnist for The Press and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. jkelly@post-gazette.com, 412 263-1476. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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