Will this be the year we finally see a presidential nominee with the guts to make an issue of his opponent's extremist associations?
Actually, it's already happened, but not in the way many of us wished. President Obama recently accused Mitt Romney of allying himself with "the radical fringe of his party," in an e-mail highlighting his occasional fundraising events with Donald Trump, and now the president's campaign is warning that Paul Ryan is a dangerous extremist.
The audacity of this line of attack naturally brings up the issue of Those Whose Names Must Not Be Mentioned -- Obama's own collection of terror supporters and actual terrorists he chose as mentors (and whose influence is disturbingly evident in his foreign policy). If Romney was waiting for some kind of formal invitation before attacking the president's most glaring weakness, that invitation has arrived.
Obama's fundraising off Romney's "radical" associations is an example of either chutzpah he will get away with or hubris that will come back to haunt him by inviting scrutiny of Obama's closeness with terrorists who appear with him in the suppressed Los Angeles Times video of a 2003 anti-Israel gathering -- former PLO operative Rashid Khalidi (who dedicated a book to Palestinian murderer Yasser Arafat), Bill Ayers (who dedicated a book to Palestinian murderer Sirhan Sirhan), and Bernardine Dohrn.
The guest list also included Ali Abunimah, a close Obama ally who founded the Electronic Intifada website in 2001 (surely Obama realized that the word "intifada" is synonymous with suicide bombings) and the Sanabel debka troupe. Columnist Debbie Schlussel reported that she witnessed a performance of this Palestinian children's dance group that included "simulating beheadings and stomping on American, Israeli, and British flags." (Did they let the children use real swords when they acted out the beheadings? Maybe we'll find out when this comes up in the debates.)
What kind of presidential candidate participates in such an event? One who is "out of touch with most Americans' values" and "fully embraced extremism" -- phrases the Obama team uses to describe Paul Ryan and the Tea Party, while the president's own indoctrination by terrorists goes unmentioned. The disturbing unspoken truth is that if Romney relentlessly attacked Santorum and Gingrich on their worst vulnerabilities yet declines to do the same to Obama, he is succumbing to racial bullying, just as John McCain and even the Clintons did on their way to defeat.
Only Romney and Ryan have the visibility to speak out on the suppression of the video without being ignored and reach the crucial undecided voters. At least one of them must wear two hats -- candidate and one-man alternative media (it's grossly unfair, but it's the hand they've been dealt). Will one or both hold a press conference in front of the LA Times building, as Romney did in front of Solyndra headquarters? Romney will benefit immeasurably if he goes on offense and throws back at Obama the same charge Obama's campaign is hurling at him -- "He's hiding something," and in this case, something infinitely more unsettling than anything that might be found in Romney's tax records.
While the LA Times protects Obama, not all prominent elected officials have been so lucky. As one alert blogger noted in 2008, the paper was quick to report the contents of an audiotape damaging to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
And then, four months ago, the LA Times cavalierly publicized photos of a few rogue U..S troops posing with body parts of dead Afghan suicide bombers. Despite pleas by the U.S. military and others about the potentially deadly consequences, the newspaper stood by its decision, as editor Davan Maharaj insisted, "At the end of the day, our job is to publish information that our readers need to make informed decisions."
That's truly a priceless quote for the Romney campaign to cite when asking why a newspaper would release photos endangering U.S. troops' lives yet suppress a video that endangers a favored politician's career.
Although the media and Obama effectively operate as a single entity, the obligation to obtain the release of the video's contents is ultimately on the Obama team themselves, especially in light of their demands for more Romney's tax records, e-mails from his term as governor, and a pro-Romney PAC's donor list. In the president's own unintentionally ironic words, "[w]hat's important is if you are running for president is that the American people know who you are and what you've done and that you're an open book."
Unless and until the video is released, the Romney campaign would be remiss not to play by the Obama camp's rules and mention that there are "disturbing reports" -- the same provocative term DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz used to hint at something evil in Romney's finances -- that the event included a toast to the death of Israel.
Even without the video, there was more than enough in the LA Times' 2008 account of the anti-Israel event to create profound concern about Obama's leanings and judgment. It was an evening of the kind of Chicago hate that Romney is finally beginning to suggest Obama take back home with him:
At Khalidi's 2003 farewell party...a young Palestinian American recited a poem accusing the Israeli government of terrorism in its treatment of Palestinians and sharply criticizing U.S. support of Israel. If Palestinians cannot secure their own land, she said, "then you will never see a day of peace."
One speaker likened "Zionist settlers on the West Bank" to Osama bin Laden, saying both had been "blinded by ideology."
Coincidentally, 2003 was also the year Khalidi openly endorsed massacring Israeli soldiers during peacetime -- the same thing Nidal Hassan did to U.S. soldiers at Fort Hood and Mohamed Merah did to French soldiers before killing Jewish schoolchildren. Yet Obama has extolled Khalidi as a valuable Mideast adviser whose views helped correct "my own blind spots and my own biases."
Khalidi, who also hosted an Obama fundraiser, continues to be ignored by major media outlets that filter out information that contradicts the official storyline of Obama as healing unifier. In addition to dedicating his book, Under Siege, to Arafat, Khalidi has labeled Israel "racist" and "apartheid" and callously mocked "hysteria about suicide bombers." As Alyssa A. Lappen and Jonathan Calt Harris reported, when "Palestinians lynched two off-duty Israeli officers on October 12, 2000, Khalidi did not critique the perpetrators of this crime, but railed against the 'prostitute' and 'cynical' media that dared to show Palestinians triumphantly displaying bloodied hands after the killings."
The influence of Obama's mentors was chillingly evident when he warned in 2009 that apartment construction for Jews in Jerusalem "embitters Palestinians in a way that could end up being very dangerous" -- a pre-emptive blaming of future victims of terrorism for bringing it upon themselves. (The president seemed to be echoing the reaction of Islamic Jihad leader Daoud Shihab to the previous year's terrorist murder of an 86-year-old man in Gilo: the killing was "a natural response [emphasis added] to crimes of the occupation in the city of Jerusalem[.]") If Obama had been president 50 years ago, would he have reprimanded African-Americans for living in a particular neighborhood because it would incite violent racists who would rather lynch them than co-exist with them?
Because of this and numerous other examples of policies that clearly stem from his indoctrination, Obama's protégé-mentor relationship with terrorists is a more pressing issue today than it was in 2008. In the most important paragraph of Sarah Palin's Going Rogue, she wrote:
... I will forever question the campaign for prohibiting discussion of such associations. All the more since these telltale signs of Obama's views, carefully concealed with centrist campaign-speak, have now been brought into the light by his appointments and actions in office.
September 5, the 40th anniversary of the Munich Massacre, would be the ideal time to highlight President Obama's participation in honoring a PLO operative at an Israel-bashing event. The victims included American-born David Berger, who along with the other slain athletes is honored by a national memorial site in Ohio. Berger is merely one on a long list of Americans killed by Palestinian terrorists, and every such murder is technically an act of war on the U.S. Obama's gravitation to Khalidi and his views was not an uncharacteristic anomaly, but part of a pattern that included giving $27,000 to a hate cult that supported Hamas and Hezb'allah and disseminated bizarre blood libels -- "Israeli death squads" hunt down civilians; Israel "worked on an ethnic bomb that kills Blacks and Arabs" and commits "genocide and ethnic cleansing ... every hour of the day." Yet for now, Romney remains silent, even as Obama attacks his "values."
Because Romney's choice of Ryan guarantees that this ticket will be defined by Obama and the media as "radical" and "extremist" (and it's the image, not the reality, that will influence voters), he has left himself little choice but to use all his ammunition and remind voters about the genuine extremists -- violent enemies of the U.S. and its allies -- Obama chose as mentors who shaped his disastrous foreign policy.
Time is running short. Because it was late in the campaign when Palin raised the issue of Obama's terrorist allies, the media in effect shouted her down and ran out the clock. For the sin of telling the truth about the emperor's clothes, she had to be ripped to shreds, along with her family. The media told the voters it was not Obama's scandal, but hers; she was guilty of being negative.
Romney and Ryan can expect the same treatment, but this issue works to their advantage if they refuse to back down. Whenever the media accuses them of negativity (or worse), it will help to remember the moral clarity and common sense of Palin's reply to the charge: "It's not negativity. It's truthfulness. And the American people deserve to know."
Edward Olshaker is a longtime freelance journalist whose work has appeared in History News Network, The Jewish Press, FrontPage Magazine, and other publications.