God purged from … major story in Washington Post

Obviously, the Divine Mrs. M.Z. Hemingway was all over the political conventions this week. I must confess that I focused on events in a different religion in American life. Well, duh. I live in Baltimore.

So even though MZ went deep on the whole “God” and “Jerusalem” story, as a pro-life Democrat I was still fascinated by this train wreck in the Democratic Party platform. Also, I work and read news on Capitol Hill, so it’s hard to avoid waves of political coverage — even when you’re just walking down the brick sidewalks and riding mass transit.

I realize that the whole “booing God” story has obvious talk-TV implications. I know all about the timing of the “boos” and the questions about whether GOP insiders were shopping for video (click here) to use with nasty political advertisements about the Democrats going totally secular and insulting the Almighty. Trust me, I know all that.

Thus, you had two sets of talking points from the usual political suspects.

On one side, the right, people were all but saying that the “purging God” story was the most important story in the history of the universe.

On the other side, the left (for the most part), people were saying, “Editing God story? What editing God story? There’s no story. Move along.”

The truth was somewhere in between, of course. Surely no one would just follow the talking points from one side. Right? I mean, left?

So the journalistic goal in this case was to (a) get the facts down on what actually happened when and (b) talk to people on both sides about the conflicting explanations for what this all meant. Right? The story blew up and, at some point, people had to step back and offer balanced, accurate, intelligent coverage of it.

Now, what I want you to do is click here and read the main Washington Post story about this donnybrook. You have a clue where this is going in the headline: “Democrats restore to party platform language on Jerusalem.”

And where, you ask, is God in this story? The answer is absolutely nowhere. The Post may have referred to the booing God story in web coverage, including some wire-service copy, but it certainly appears that the voice of the Beltway establishment swallowed the left’s talking points on this one, at least in this major story that was produced by Post professionals.

I mean, did I miss something? Instead we get:

CHARLOTTE – Democratic delegates restored to their party platform Wednesday the position that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, reversing a controversial omission that had angered some Jewish organizations and drew criticism from Republicans that President Obama was distancing the United States from its closest ally in the Middle East.

The amendment to the platform, which essentially reinstates the language on Jerusalem from the 2008 version, was introduced by former Ohio governor Ted Strickland. It was put to a voice vote by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, the convention chairman, who asked three times for “aye” votes before determining that the amendment had a two-thirds majority.

The vote was far from decisive, however, and angered many delegates who opposed the reinstatement of the language. Some stood up from their seats inside the Time Warner Arena, shaking their fingers at Villaraigosa.

At the same time, the change did not go as far as some delegates or Jewish organizations wanted, and it underscored yet again how complicated and perilous Obama’s relationship is with the American politics over Israel. An Obama campaign official said the president intervened Wednesday to strengthen the platform language on Jerusalem.

So where is God in all of this? Where are the people who were booing, as well as silently shaking their fingers?

Was there another story on the editing-God angle? Did I miss it? What is the journalistic logic for totally ignoring that particular story, other than heeding the talking points from the left?

Contrast this missing-in-action Post report with the following story — “God is back in the party platform, but religion remains a divisive issue for Democrats” — from the Godbeat veterans at Religion News Service. Here is the top of the report, to show you the tone and content. Note that even President Barack Obama recognized that this was a story with two elements:

God was out and now God is in. And Jerusalem wasn’t the capital of Israel and now it is.

The accusations Wednesday morning (Sept. 5) that God had been “purged” from the Democrats’ national platform seemed too much for the party to bear. That afternoon, its national convention restored the divine to the document, as well as a statement affirming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

It was a crisis the party didn’t seem to see coming, and provided one of the few unscripted scenes this convention season, a chaotic day that highlighted the debate among the Democrats about religion and politics. President Obama himself on Wednesday pushed for the “God” and “Jerusalem” references, according to an anonymous Democratic official. One platform amendment added a sentence about Americans’ “God-given” potential and the other affirmed Jerusalem’s “capital” status.

Looks like a story, to me. Not the most important story in the history of the universe, but a story worthy of professional coverage.

As opposed to the rattling of talking points, then silence.

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.

  • deacon john m. bresnahan

    I was pleasantly surprised by Anderson Cooper on CNN. He ridiculed the dems and some reporters trying to deep-six the God-Jerusalem story at the Dem Convention. To make his point Cooper laughingly used the words that police use around a bloody accident site–”Move Along! Nothing to see here! MOVE ALONG MOVE ALONG!”


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