Man Without Qualities

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

A Peculiar Delicacy

This New York Times article and Associated Press report appearing in the New York Times each recount President Bush's choice of Ken Mehlman, who managed Bush's re-election campaign, to now head the Republican National Committee. They are both oddly "delicate" on a point that warrants no deliacy whatsoever: Mr. Mehlman is jewish. Neither item mentions that fact at all, not even in an aside. But the Times and the AP often find ethnic and gender identification of appointees newsworthy, as in today's AP/Times coverage of Condi Rice: If confirmed by the Senate, she would be the first black woman secretary of state. Rice [was] raised in the segregated South ... And other media have had no trouble finding the newsworthiness of Mr. Mehlman's ethnicity or its relevance to the Republican agenda:

"I think there's an opportunity, based on the president's leadership, to significantly expand our level of support" in the Jewish community, Mehlman told National Journal. "Good policies are good politics."

Little wonder that Mehlman, who is Jewish, and other top campaign officials have been using the more intimate setting of small meetings to woo Jewish donors and leaders. On several occasions, such as a November gathering in Baltimore, Mehlman and other campaign officials have skillfully used "pre-sells" -- the hosting of potential Jewish contributors in the weeks running up to a big fundraising event that features Bush.

Mr. Melhman did a terrific job running the Bush-Cheney campaign, and his new appointment is clearly intended in part to faciliate the Republican outreach to jewish voters, who this time gave a larger share of their votes and financial support to President Bush than they normally give to Republicans. That's obviously all worth a mention by the the New York Times, etc. Instead we get odd circumlocutions like:

Mehlman, 38, a protege of Rove, said he also hopes to expand the GOP base and help Bush enact his agenda, including changes in the tax code and Social Security. While winning re-election with 51 percent of the vote, Bush improved his support among Hispanics, Catholics, women and others [sic] key voting blocs.

Other Democratic "key voting blocs?" - you know, like jewish Americans.

This "delicacy" concerning Mr. Mehlman and his partial mission to advance further Republican inroads with jewish voters is nothing sort of weird. In contrast, the Times has absolutely no problem running items that insinuate - often employing standard antisemitic code language - that spooky "neoconservatives" in the Bush administration are mysteriously deforming American foreign policy, as in this Times book review, just by way of example:

At the end of the book, Hersh confesses that he still hasn't got the whole story. "There is so much about this presidency that we don't know, and may never learn," he writes. "How did they do it? How did eight or nine neoconservatives who believed that war in Iraq was the answer to international terrorism get their way? How did they redirect the government and rearrange longstanding American priorities and policies with so much ease? How did they overcome the bureaucracy, intimidate the press, mislead the Congress and dominate the military? Is our democracy that fragile?"

Yes, our democracy is that fragile. Checks and balances in the American constitutional system are functioning poorly.

One might also look here and here and so many other places in the Times.

So why be so "delicate" with respect to Mr. Mehlman?

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