This morning there was some peculiar media coverage of last night’s Republican debate. Predictably, in all sources Ron Paul coverage was significantly less than the column inches provided Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, even though he is running neck-and-neck with them in Iowa.
Ron Paul was the only one to raise the issue of foreign policy in a serious way, saying that it is a mistake to demonize 1.2 billion Muslims and that continually calling for war against Iran will not solve anything. I read an early morning AP article that reported those comments and opined that Paul had thereby proven that he is too extreme for the Republican Party. When I returned to the story later this morning the first version had been deleted from the server and it had been rewritten to eliminate both the “too extreme” and the direct quotes from Paul that it had included. Instead, it mentioned only Iran and briefly noted that a response to Paul was made by Michele Bachmann.
Most other press coverage also avoided providing any detail on Paul’s actual comments. The New York Times had truncated coverage but managed to insert an essentially editorial comment, reporting “Yet Mr. Paul may have showed the limits to his appeal among Republicans when he argued forcefully against aggressive action to rid Iran of its nuclear capabilities. He raised his voice, saying, ‘You cannot solve these problems with war.’”
The Washington Post had the most detailed account of Bachmann’s rejoinder, “At that, Bachmann said: ‘With all due respect to Ron Paul, I think I have never heard a more dangerous answer for American security than the one that we just heard from Ron Paul.’ She added: ‘The reason why I would say that is because we know, without a shadow of a doubt, that Iran will take a nuclear weapon. They will use it to wipe our ally Israel off the face of the map, and they’ve stated they will use it against the United States of America.’”
Here’s my problem with all of this: the mainstream media is deliberately marginalizing Paul and his views and is making him out to be extremist in spite of the fact that in a normal world it is his opponents who might reasonably be called extreme. Bachmann can be forgiven, I suppose, for misspeaking that Iran would “take” a nuclear weapon, whatever that is supposed to mean, but she is completely wrong in her assertion that the Iranian government has ever threatened to use a nuclear weapon to attack either Israel or the United States. She also repeats the conventional fiction that Israel is an actual ally of the United States.
Every other Republican candidate is completely comfortable with operating under the assumption that Israel must be protected at all costs and that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon that is somehow a threat to the United States. But there is no evidence that Iran either wants or is building a nuke. It may not even be capable of making a bomb given the ongoing sabotage of its nuclear program. It is also not clear how Iran might actually threaten the United States. As Paul has put it, Israel is quite able to defend itself with its own nuclear arsenal and advanced military capabilities. So Ron Paul is talking good sense and is trying to avoid a war while the others are not, but the media is content with spinning its coverage to leave the impression that Paul is the dangerous party.