Will This Election Be About Mormon Massacres and Obama's SAT scores?
Yesterday, Matt Welch noted the publication of a satire about Mitt Romney's treatment of dogs by two NPR journos, headlining the piece, "Seriously, This is What Our Elite Journalistic Institutions Are Writing About." He pointed readers to the Washington Post, which covered the important story.
Here's another WashPost story in the same vein, though this one has the trappings of historical information and electoral seriousness.
CARROLLTON, Ark. — On the wildflower-studded slopes of the Ozarks, where memories run long and family ties run thick, a little-known and long-ago chapter of history still simmers.
On Sept. 11, 1857, a wagon train from this part of Arkansas met with a gruesome fate in Utah, where most of the travelers were slaughtered by a Mormon militia in an episode known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Hundreds of the victims' descendants still populate these hills and commemorate the killings, which they have come to call "the first 9/11."
Many of the locals grew up hearing denunciations of Mormonism from the pulpit on Sundays, and tales of the massacre from older relatives who considered Mormons "evil."
You got that? Mormons are sometimes considered evil - even in the Ozarks, that redoubt of enlightened thinking and representative thinking of this vast land of liberty. In case you don't fully understand the stakes, the Post spells it out for you:
There aren't many places in America more likely to be suspicious of Mormonism — and potentially more problematic for Mitt Romney, who is seeking to become the country's first Mormon president.
When you've lost the Ozarks, man, you've lost America, right? I wonder how often in other contexts the Post goes to the hills to take the pulse of the nation.
After learning that Mitt Romney is a solid member of a religion that is strange and cultish to most Americans - and one implicated in a horrifying murder rampage in the 19th century - we learn something funny:
There is scant evidence that Romney's religion is making much difference in how voters here are thinking about the presidential election and whether they are willing to back the former Massachusetts governor….
Eight out of 10 Republicans and Democrats said Romney's faith was not a major reason to support or oppose him, according to an April Washington Post-ABC News poll. And a recent study by the Brookings Institution found that Romney's religion may actually increase his support from conservative voters, including white evangelicals.
This is a classic sort of news story formula, in which the reporter's first impulse is totally thwarted by actual reporting but the journalist doesn't want to give up the lede that got him or her interested in the first place. You can almost see the wheels turning: They've got to hate Mormons and hence Mitt Romney in this place! What a great way to talk about how weird Mormonism is, even if it clearly is not going to have much if any effect on the outcome of the election! "Mitt Romney's Mormon faith tangles with a quirk of Arkansas history" is such a better headline than, say, "Romney's religion not a big factor in whether people think he should be president."
To judge from recent pieces at Breitbart.com, opponents of President Obama are also happy to focus on tangential issues almost as much as the mainstream media (see, they're not so different, are they?). As part of its "vetting" process of the incumbent,
Breitbart News has established that Obama's grades and Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores may have been even lower than those of his supposedly less capable predecessor, George W. Bush.
Breitbart News has learned that the transfer class that entered Columbia College in the fall of 1981 with Obama was one of the worst in recent memory, according to Columbia officials at the time….
As I wrote when Breitbart News released the 1991 book agency bio of Obama that mistakenly identified the aspiring memoirist as having been born in Kenya (the editor of Breitbart underscored that he believes the president was born in the U.S.), this sort of thing is a mug's game at best. Obama has a truly dismal record to run on and to the extent that his detractors focus on inessential matters that have no bearing on the current and future governing of the United States, they are not helping their side win the hearts and minds of undecided voters.
Lest they forget, Obama is the guy whose stimulus failed every benchmark for effectiveness he set, whose bailouts and "transformational" health care plan are genuinely unpopular, who has OK'ed killing U.S. citizens without judicial review, who has deported record numbers of immigrants, who raids medical marijuana dispensaries, kills school choice programs for poor kids in D.C. - and what really matters is whether his SAT or GPA is lower than George Bush's? His record as president is worse than Bush's - or at least it's in the same rotten neighborhood. That's the ticket, folks, to defeating him.
Breitbart News is not the Washington Post, of course, in terms of audience and representing itself as objective, but in such types of stories, both organizations display a similar willingness to chase butterflies rather than stay on track of serious issues. In this, alas, both are eerily like the dogs that evil Mitt Romney strapped to the top of his family wagon and secret Muslim Barack Obama ate as a kid in Indonesia.
Disclosure: ReasonTV's videos appear at the Breitbart News site Big Government.