Reading Washington Times tea leaves

scarletmitt 1 It’s true. One of the reasons people inside and outside the Beltway read The Washington Times is to find out what Republican strategists are thinking. It’s interesting to find out what makes it into the official GOP talking points and what does not.

I always see the Times before I see The Washington Post, for the simple reason that I live in a blue-collar neighborhood on the south side of Baltimore that is not considered ritzy enough for home delivery of the Post. One will often see events in the Republican world in one of these papers and not in the other, and you can guess which is which.

So it was interesting to note this headline today in the Times, atop a story filed from Los Angeles by Christina Bellantoni: “Romney golden to GOP in blue state.” It states the obvious about the charismatic Gov. Mitt Romney:

Mr. Romney is eyeing a White House bid as he finishes his last few months in the Massachusetts governor’s mansion, and made his case to state party activists this weekend at the California Republican Convention. They loved him — cheering wildly for a stump speech that closely resembled a stand-up routine and later praising him as someone with the right kind of fiscal and conservative values.

“He’s got the charisma Kennedy had and the morals we wish Kennedy would have had,” said Republican Donee Chabot of Los Angeles, who works in real estate.

But I was also struck by this obvious paragraph:

Another Republican privately worried Mr. Romney’s Mormon faith would be a deterrent. The activist said Mormonism will be a difficult thing for the nation to get behind, a tougher religion to sell than President Kennedy’s Catholicism.

Now, where do you think Bellantoni — or her editors — played this interesting statement? Is there, or is is there not, some symbolism in this placement?

Just asking. In terms of journalism and story structure, it seemed rather strange to me.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • David N. Scott

    I’ve read this multiple times, along with the links, and I humbly confess that I do not understand what you mean by symbolism in the placement…?

  • tmatt

    OK, where is the paragraph placed? What does that say in terms of journalism structure? Inverted pyramid?

  • Michael

    Tmatt loves to be Socratic. That’s why he’s a teacher.

    It is curious they would make this the last paragraph, as if it is sort of a throw-away comment. Or maybe there was more development that didn’t make the cut. One wonders if that’s where the reporter placed it in her story.

    Given the Times bias towards not speaking ill of the GOP or religious conservatives, one could see the concern about suggesting there was a problem. Also, when your paper is associated with a cult, you may want to tread lightly when discussing another faith that’s considered a cult by some of your core readership.

    If there’s nothing to the allegation that GOP voters won’t support a Mormon, why put it in the story at all?

  • David N. Scott

    Ah, I see now. Interesting how that makes the last impression. I was a little confused because of the link-filled next sentence; I was a little uncertain if you meant in the article or one of the posts linked.

    It’s much more obvious in the big version–the email one, which I read a bit at a time, threw me off…

    Or that’s my story… ;)

  • Kevin
  • Larry Rasczak

    Until the GOP decided that they needed to deport everyone who could spell “enchilada”, I was a bit of a Republican activist. Precint chair even.

    I have never run into anyone who said they wouldn’t support a “Latter Day Saint” for President. I had some very good LDS friends when I was in the Army, and although I did not agree with their teachings, I admired their serious piety and their values. I would be far more comfortable with one of them running the country than (purely hypothetically)… a pot smoking, womanizing, draft dodger who lies under oath, loathes the military, and is under near constant investigation for corruption.

    So I have to ask, is this supposed anti-LDS sentement something the Romney camp itself is generating in an attempt to look “Kennedy-esque”?
    Is it a pre-emptive strike on their part? If so, against who? HBO and the people who watch “Big Love”?

    Also, I have to ask… is there any value left in looking Kennedy-esque? JFK was elected 46 years ago. You would have to be collecting social security to have voted for him; and you would have to be closing in on 50 to even remember him. How many Kennedy voters are left? Will anyone in the year 2006 be persuaded to support you simply by a comparison to JFK?

  • Adam Greenwood

    Not a chance the Romney camp is behind this. Not a chance. If anything, I think they don’t take the issue seriously enough.

    Agreed that the Kennedy comparison doesn’t mean much these days. But that’s the lemonade that the Romney people can make.