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Peter D. Rosenstein

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Katherine Graham Must Be Turning Over in Her Grave

Posted: 04/08/2013 3:56 pm

I can only imagine that Katherine Graham is turning over in her grave at what the Washington Post is becoming. It is the same thought I had many years ago when thinking about Dorothy Schiff and what happened to her beloved New York Post.

For many years the Washington Post was a reliably progressive paper responsive to its reader's interests. Washington, D.C. and its Virginia and Maryland suburbs is still one of the most progressive regions in the nation. However the Post today is no longer that paper. A few weeks ago the Post parted with its longstanding tradition of having an ombudsman. When Patrick Pexton's contract was up they announced that they would no longer hire an ombudsman in order to save money. It was a sad day for a once proud paper.

Then in quick succession the Post editorial board published two editorials symptomatic of what they have become. The first was an endorsement in a local D.C. Council-at-large race more than a month before the election. Now that is highly unusual in local races with multiple candidates. But it made sense if you follow their recent trends. Whereas the Post was once a solidly Democratic paper they have been making a strong effort to try to elect Republicans by endorsing them in local races. In this case the endorsement was for Republican Patrick Mara. Most local politicos figured they would do this because the Post has run untold editorials supporting school vouchers and Mara supports vouchers. Neither the Post nor Mara are bothered by a separation of church or state; the fact that vouchers were foisted on D.C. by Congress; or the fact that 96 percent of the money from vouchers goes to the parochial school system in the District which can and does discriminate against gay and lesbian teachers, parents and students. These schools are exempt from the D.C. Human Rights Act even when they take public money. In their editorial the Post said some people are against Mara simply because he is Republican. In doing so they conveniently neglected the facts of what Mara has supported. D.C. voted 93 percent for Obama. Mara, as he is entitled to do, not only supported but was a delegate to the Republican convention and active in the Romney/Ryan campaign. Fine if he wouldn't try convincing people he is opposed to all they said. Mara claims he supports LGBT rights and same-sex marriage; women's rights and the rights of minorities. How hypocritical then to support candidates who want to close Planned Parenthood; overturn Roe v. Wade; want a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage; and opposed the Dream Act among other policies totally against the interests of the community whose votes he is now courting. Clearly none of this bothered the editorial board of the Post. They weren't bothered by the fact that had Mara's candidates won Roe v. Wade and the DOMA case could be decided in a totally different way in the next couple of years were these issues to come before a Supreme Court after Romney appointed the next Justice".

But this is where the Washington Post is today. They want to be everything to all people. Another example of this is their recent editorial, "Liberty and justice for all," that was published the day before the Supreme Court took up Prop 8 and DOMA.

The strongest major progressive newspaper in the nation, the New York Times editorialized, "The soundest approach is to recognize same-sex marriage broadly as a matter of equality under the Constitution -- and therefore compel all states as well as the federal government to recognize this right." For the other side the Wall Street Journal editorialized, "The same-sex marriage cases are an opportunity for the Court to show it has learned from that mistake (Roe v. Wade). Justice Kennedy and his colleagues can incite another Forty Years War or they can return their social jurisprudence to the measured, incremental approaches the Constitution intends."

Then there was the Washington Post. They had a strong headline but a frustratingly wishy-washy, let's-keep-them-all-happy editorial which read, "The progressive but incremental approach that these circuit courts, the Obama Justice Department, prominent attorneys and many others who would uphold gay rights have adopted represents an important phase in the evolution of legal thought on same-sex marriage. It cannot be satisfying to those of us who see a strong equal-protection case for same-sex equality. But, given concerns that a sweeping judicial mandate might cause a counterproductive backlash, it is understandable." I wasn't the only progressive reader of this editorial that thought to myself, "I believe it is not understandable." The Post editorial board tried to compare these cases to Roe v. Wade when in essence the more apt comparison is to the Loving case which said outlawing interracial marriage is unconstitutional.

As the Post continues to lose readership and money, and tries to sell its online services, it can only be hoped that they will once again realize that their base readership is progressive and wants a paper that is reliably progressive in their editorials. Those that want more conservative editorial content can easily go to the Washington Times or the Examiner.

 
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