Rutland Herald and Montpelier (Barre) Times Argus
Sunday August 5th, 2012
By Barrie Dunsmore
Twenty-five years ago, when George Herbert Walker Bush was vice president and Newsweek had a substantial readership – not to mention some political influence in the country - the magazine created a major stir by doing a cover story on Bush’s expected run for the presidency under the caption, “The Wimp Factor.”
This past week a greatly diminished Newsweek (which a couple of years ago was on sale for a dollar) sought to return to those wonderful days of yesteryear when some people would actually notice who was on its cover. It used the same caption as in 1987. Only this time it was Mitt Romney’s manhood being questioned.
Let’s face it. These days the weekly news magazines like Time and Newsweek are just barely surviving and are desperate for attention. This latest Romney cover was a pure gimmick to create some buzz in the chattering classes which, truth be known, was the reason for the original cover. Michael Tomasky, who wrote the Romney piece concedes as much. He admits that calling Bush a wimp “was not entirely fair. The guy had been an aviator in the war, the big war, and he was shot down over the Pacific, cockpit drenched in smoke and fumes at an age (20) when in most states he couldn’t even legally drink a beer.”
However, to pump up Newsweek’s latest “wimp” cover, Tomasky has no such qualms about trashing Romney. He writes, “In hindsight, Poppy looks like Dirty Harry Callahan when compared to Romney who spent his war (Vietnam)” in Paris, leaning French yet, while “up to his eyeballs in deferments.” If you are interested in any more of this screed you might have a hard time locating a copy of Newsweek these days but it’s on line - where rumor has it, will soon be the only place to find it. In fact, the original “Wimp” cover on Bush had limited impact. And the Romney- is- a- wimp version will have no affect whatsoever on the 2012 presidential campaign. I am not sure where most voters are getting their information these days but it certainly isn’t from the traditional news magazines
It now seems to be the deeply entrenched conventional wisdom that people today rely on the Internet and the social media for news and information. Perhaps that’s true. What I do know is that when I see and hear voters expressing their opinions on various media platforms I am not assured by their “knowledge.” For instance, last week NPR did a story on American Jewish reaction to Governor Romney’s visit to Israel. Almost all of those interviewed were convinced that President Barack Obama is very anti Israel. I heard one man complaining bitterly that Obama had never even invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House. I guess he missed the several visits, including the twenty minute lecture Bibi gave the president during an Oval Office photo-op a year or so ago.
Unfortunately the hard line views of Netanyahu, transmitted through the echo chamber of the equally hard line Israeli Lobby, (the America Israel Political Action Committee known as AIPAC) have come to totally dominate the news coverage about Israel in this country. A clear case in point: outside of CNN which did the interview, the important remarks made this past week by Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak lauding Obama’s support for Israel were virtually ignored in the American media. ( It’s worth noting that the interview was widely reported in the English language Jerusalem Post and in Haaretz, one of Israel’s major newspapers.)
This is what most Americans probably missed. Mr. Barak told CNN that the Obama administration’s support of Israeli defense and intelligence establishments was far greater than under any other administration he remembered, going back to President Jimmy Carter. “I should tell you honestly” said Mr. Barak to CNN's Wolf Blitzer, “that this administration under President Obama is doing in regard to our security more than anything that I can remember in the past.” Barak’s statement was highly relevant because it came at a time when Romney was in Israel with his old pal the prime minister, with whom he’s been portraying Obama as feckless when it comes to Israel’s security.

As for Romney’s world tour generally, to say he did not pass the “looking presidential” test would be overly generous. But by now enough has been said about the trip and given American interest in foreign affairs, it won’t matter come November. But I do have a final thought on Mr. Romney that came to me when he was overseas.
I normally don’t feel sorry for politicians. People with egos big enough to seek high office in this country know how merciless election campaigning can be. And in today’s hyper-partisan environment, Harry Truman’s sage advice - “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” – is even more relevant than when he said it.
Yet as a watched Mitt Romney being quizzed by David Muir of ABC News amidst the governor’s gaffe-prone world tour, I began to feel sorry for him. Although he was smiling, he looked for all the world like a man who he had just been dealt a blow to his private parts and was trying desperately to conceal how much pain this relentless challenge to his veracity, integrity and competence was causing him. Here was a man who has almost everything, having to suffer such cruel public indignities. But my moment of sympathy soon passed. This was a man who was being undone by his unfettered political ambitions; a man who willingly shredded his own credibility and reputation by systematically renouncing a lifetime of respectable moderate Republican views in order to pander to the most extreme members of his party. Whether he wins or loses the election, Romney has already made his deal with the devil. And from Goethe’s “Faust” to the musical Damn Yankees, we know how that story ends.

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