If you haven't yet heard of the videotape in the hands of the Los Angeles Times, purportedly showing Barack Obama praising a Chicago professor who served as a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization when it was a U.S.-designated terror group, you're obviously not a political junkie. Those who are (ourselves among them) have not only heard of the tape, we know that the Times is refusing to release it to the public because, it says, it is "protecting the source" that provided the tape.
This is thin gruel at best. The Times' defense is that it published an extensive article describing the tape's contents back in April, and thus there is no need to release it now. Among other things, the article quoted Obama calling Khalidi's going-away party, calling Rashid Khalidi his "friend and frequent dinner companion."
John McCain said Wednesday if the presidential candidate on the tape were not Obama, but McCain, the tape would have found its way into the public arena weeks ago. As cartoonist Eric Allie comments in his work elsewhere on the page today, the media generally is "in the tank" for Obama. The Orange County Register made the same case in this space Thursday.
In light of the Times' political actions in the past, it's not hard to come to the conclusion that McCain has a case for what he says. Remember, it was the Times who wrote a story, two days before the recall election involving then-California Gov. Gray Davis's recall, calling Arnold Schwarzennegger's relationships with several women. Although a Times editor wrote then that the story was published, not as a political attack but as a "public service," few believed it. And few now believe the Times is suppressing the tape for any reason other than to shield Mr. Obama from potential voters in case the tape might cause them to change their minds.
If the Times has already made public the entire contents of the tape via its article last April, what possible harm could it do to make the tape itself public now? The newspaper also has not provided a transcript of the 2003 farewell party for University of Chicago professor Rashid Khalidi. Among others in attendance at the party were former Weather Underground founders William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.
The Times endorsed Sen. Obama for president on Oct. 19. Here's a prediction: the tape will become available to the public sometime next week - after Nov. 4. And the Times will defend itself, once again, as acting in the "public interest." Sure.