Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bateman to LA Times: Release the Hounds, er, Tape

So Sam Donaldson wrote an editorial on today about "Video Tape That Won't Be Released"-gate. This is what our friend over at The Kansas Citian referenced in some of his comments on our site yesterday.

Apparently, this is the situation:

The McCain campaign is demanding that the Los Angeles Times release a videotape it possesses of Sen. Barack Obama attending (and speaking) at a dinner for Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian-American activist, many years ago when Obama was in the Illinois State Senate. Also at the dinner was the Weatherman co-founder William Ayers.

Apparently at this dinner, Khalidi said many things that Americans, particularly Jewish-Americans, would not find very appropriate or amusing. Sam Eyebrows continues:

So, why won't the Los Angeles Times release the tape? Because it says it obtained it on condition that it wouldn't. The Times points out that it was the news organization that brought the matter to public attention in the first place by doing a full story. And as far as its agreement not to release the tape, the paper says, "the Times keeps its promises to sources."

Now, it IS interesting that this story didn't gain much traction until the last few days. Hell, I'd never even heard of this alleged tape until very recently even though the Times apparently did a story about it last April - although it should be pointed out that I often don't hear about news until it bops me on the head.

So Donaldson goes on to say that the GOP has a point - the tape should be aired so everyone can see what exactly is on it - but that the Times' promise to its source is more important, because nothing should trump journalistic integrity and the Times promised to keep the tape confidential. Thus, concludes Sam I Am, they are doing the right thing, end of discussion.

Respectfully, Sammy, I disagree. I'm a raging liberal - have been since my days in that barbershop quartet back in Skokie - but there are limits. This is not painted as the usual case of protecting a source. When a source's name or identity is protected by the media, due to danger of reprisals or the like, that is one thing. That sort of thing must be protected in order to allow people to come forward. This situation, however, is not the same.

Unless disclosure of this tape would without question implicate the person who provided it as the source (which seems odd - was he the lone person with a camera in the room?), keeping a promise to keep the tape confidential is protecting nobody but Barack Obama (potentially).

This is not keeping the name of a whistleblower secret. This is keeping the contents of a tape secret from the American public at a time when they are going to be electing their next leader. One of the allegations tossed around is that Obama pals around with terrorists and harbors sympathies for Muslim extremists. This tape seems to me to be the most direct evidence to date that some of that might have some traction (discussed further below). But yet we are not going to have an opportunity to see it and decide for ourselves.

I'm usually a hard-line liberal, but sometimes you must step back and use common sense. Unless disclosure of this tape could potentially harm the source of the tape in some obvious way (in which case, I retract my comments), the LA Times should not be able to hide behind the "confidential source" chestnut tree in this game of "hide and go seek Obama's terrorist pals." Honoring a source's request that you keep something from the public eyes seemingly "just because" is not good enough.

I am going to the polls on Tuesday. My vote is for Barack Obama. But if the Senator has been at dinners and, to paraphrase Governor Palin, "palling around" with divisive elements such as Mr. Khalidi, I have a right to know about it. And that right - along with the right of the other 250 million folks like me - trumps the "confidential source" protection in this situation.

Now, let's be fair here: Khalidi denies being a PLO spokesman, as many have accused him. He is a respected scholar even if his views on Israel and the Middle East are not the same as most Americans. Is he a terrorist? No, I don't believe that he is. But he most certainly is a divisive and somewhat inflammatory figure in the ongoing discussion of the Arab-Israeli question, and we have the right to know what Barack Obama's relationship was and is with him and to what extent.

However, let's also be fair about this on the other side. John McCain has a prior relationship with Khalidi as well. As HuffPo reports:

During the 1990s, while he served as chairman of the International Republican Institute (IRI), McCain distributed several grants to the Palestinian research center co-founded by Khalidi, including one worth half a million dollars. A 1998 tax filing for the McCain-led group shows a $448,873 grant to Khalidi's Center for Palestine Research and Studies for work in the West Bank. The relationship extends back as far as 1993, when John McCain joined IRI as chairman in January. Foreign Affairs noted in September of that year that IRI had helped fund several extensive studies in Palestine run by Khalidi's group, including over 30 public opinion polls and a study of "sociopolitical attitudes."

So let's be fair. The LA Times tape is not a smoking gun story. This is not video of Obama strapping up suicide bombers in Ramallah. McCain's had affiliation with the guy too. But it is something that should be added to the overall mix of information out there. There are times for discretion. There are times for full disclosure. It is important that our media outlets have the good sense to discern one from another, especially with everything at stake on Tuesday.


Defective Pants said...

Why wasn't this an issue for the McCain camp until know? You answered your own question. Bringing it up a week or month ago would have allowed the issue to be fully vetted, revealing McCain's connections to the guy currently being used in Palin's speeches. The short time period between now and election day helps them point the finger at Obama without having it pointed back.

A second reason - they know it won't be released this close to election day. That fact favors the McCain camp much more than the Obama camp, because it lends credence to the speculation that there is something inflamatory on it. It's a win-win story for McCain right now, even if there's nothing bad on the tape.

My question is - what was the intent of the person who gave them the tape? If it was to inform voters generally - then he probably wouldn't mind it being released. If he was pro-McCain, then you would think he'd want it realesed if there was incendiary stuff on it. If he was pro-Obama, why turn it over to begin with? The conspiracy theorist in me thinks the guy is pro-McCain, but is refusing to allow it's release because he wants to fuel speculation that there is something on the tape that doesn't exist.

Or maybe it's shot in Blair Witch mode, and he keeps pointing it at himself the whole time.

Pat Bateman said...

HA! It's totally Blair Witch-style. Guy keeps pointing it at himself going "holy crap, did you just see Obama pal around with that terrorist??" Then he sees a pile of rocks and runs screaming into the woods.

Defective Pants said...

"You threw away the map to victory? John, why would you throw away the map to victory?"

Warm Apple Pie said...

So DP, you agree then - release the tape, LA Times. Sometimes I get lost in your liberal labyrinth.

As the right-wing blogosphere pushes it, the real value of the video is potential evidence of an Obama reaction of pleasure in hearing anti-Israeli sentiments being offered, some in prose, some in oration, some in poem.

By the way, I'm looking at the April article now titled "Allies of Palestinians See a Friend in Barack Obama."

There is the key excerpt:

At Khalidi's 2003 farewell party, for example, 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."

Obama adopted a different tone in his comments and called for finding common ground. But his presence at such events, as he worked to build a political base in Chicago, has led some Palestinian leaders to believe that he might deal differently with the Middle East than either of his opponents for the White House."

DP, see my comments on the Wright Post. It applies here as well.