Pundits: Romney Sort of Endorsed Obama

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama was judged the winner of Monday night's final debate of the campaign season, with challenger Mitt Romney leaving pundits debating why he now agreed with the president on so many foreign policy issues.


"If this debate had gone on for 30 more minutes, Romney was going to endorse Obama," Van Jones, the former Obama administration official, said as part of a CNN post-debate panel.

Eugene Robinson wrote for the Washington Post, ". . . the larger story of the third and final presidential debate, ostensibly about foreign policy, is that Mitt Romney didn't really lay a glove on President Obama. For most of the evening, he didn't even try."

The Huffington Post bannered, "CHIEF IN COMMAND" and its BlackVoices section, "CURTAIN CLOSED: Obama Ends Final Debate On A High Note."

In a CBS News snap poll, 53 percent said Obama won, 23 percent said Romney won and 24 percent were undecided.

In a CNN poll, 48 percent said Obama won and 40 percent chose Romney. When respondents were asked who was the stronger leader, 51 percent said Obama, 46 percent said Romney. Who was more likeable? Forty-eight percent chose Obama, forty-seven percent Romney. Who was on the attack? Sixty-eight percent said Obama, 21 percent Romney.

The television punditry said the candidates arrived at the debate with different objectives.


"I think the president came to rough up Mitt Romney," CNN's Candy Crowley said. "I think he acted like a person that had to sort of stop some momentum by Romney. He went after him — 'you're all over the map, that's not what you said before' — I mean, almost every single answer from the president had something to do with Mitt Romney. I feel as though Mitt Romney approached this like a physician, first do no harm. I feel like he didn't come in to necessarily win. I think he came in, you know, as a man who's had a certain amount of momentum over the past three, four weeks since that first debate and not wanting to ruin it."

Fareed Zakaria, a CNN and Time magazine commentator, said on the same network that Romney surprised Obama by "attacking him from the left . . [saying] 'you're the cowboy.'" Gloria Borger of CNN agreed, saying of Romney, "He ran as the peace candidate."


But on CNN and especially MSNBC, the question of Romney's agreements with Obama became a character issue.

"When you see he not only denies his positions but actually argues [against them], that is a cause for concern," Al Sharpton said on MSNBC. Noting that Romney agreed with Obama on the timetable for troops leaving Afghanistan, Rachel Maddow said, "This is a real war. [Given that the stakes include] the fate of 68,000 Americans and asserting that not only is it OK to change your mind . . . It's a character issue and I find it disqualifying."


Sharpton said, "People can accept changing your mind, but not at the cost of my behind."

Chris Matthews of MSNBC noted the weekend death of George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic presidential candidate who opposed the war in Vietnam. "Politics is supposed to be about what you believe. You don't say politics is about your ability to replicate public opinion," Matthews said. When some said Romney had changed his views to make himself more acceptable to moderates, others said the public was better served by a vigorous debate with contrasting views.


During the debate Obama declared inaccurate a Sunday New York Times story by Helene Cooper and Mark Landler that asserted, "The United States and Iran have agreed in principle for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, according to Obama administration officials, setting the stage for what could be a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran." [Landler said on Tuesday's "Diane Rehm Show" on Washington's WAMU-FM, "I'm not sure what he was denying."]

There were only passing references to Africa and to Latin America, but trade with China was discussed several times. Immigration — the biggest foreign policy issue for many Hispanics — was not mentioned. A reporter for the Liberian newspaper FrontPageAfrica, appearing on the BBC, said she was disappointed that the threat posed by fundamentalist Muslim groups in West Africa was not discussed.


Participation by journalists of color was muted. Roland Martin was again missing from the CNN lineup, and a panel of Los Angeles Times "opinionators" Jim Newton, Patt Morrison, Doyle McManus, Mickey Kaus, Jon Healey, Meghan Daum and Charlotte Allen — appeared to be all white.

As reported in Friday's column, Univision and CNN en Español said they would broadcast the debate live, but Telemundo, BET and TV One said they would not. Telemundo and BET said they would stream the event live on their websites, with Telemundo delaying a broadcast until 11:35 p.m. ET.


Chris Ariens, TVNewser: Weekend Anchors Head to Battleground States

Perry Bacon Jr., theGrio.com: What Obama really wants to do in a 2nd term

David Bauder, Associated Press: Debate Moderating Is A Thankless Job

Michael Calderone, Huffington Post: Third-Party Debate To Be Broadcast By Al Jazeera English, RT America, But Not Major Cable News Networks


Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post: Silence is golden on gay issues

Stanley Crouch, Daily News, New York: Rush Limbaugh, tragic villain

Jarvis DeBerry, nola.com|Times-Picayune: When Barack Obama supports them, Republican ideas become radical


Eric Deggans, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times: Watching the debate from New York City: A foriegn policy talk that struggled to stay on message

Derek Donovan, Kansas City Star: Liberals, don't make these mistakes

Editorial, New York Times: The Final Debate

Editorial, New Yorker: The Choice

Editorial, Washington Post: In third debate, candidates agree on more than you'd think


Charles D. Ellison, Philadelphia Tribune: Do Black politicians have a contingency plan?

Verne Gay, Newsday: TV debate: did Mitt Romney or Obama win this game of Battleship?


Stefan Kamph, Broward-Palm Beach New Times: Cover Presidential Debate? Pay $3000 or So.

Eugene Kane, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Undecided? Are you kidding?

Daniel Larison, American Conservative: Questions Obama Should Have to Answer, But Won’t Be Asked


Sandra Lilley, NBCLatino: In Florida, Latinos in both campaigns prepare for final, high-stakes debate

Robert S. McElvaine, Washington Post: Can a businessman help the economy? For presidents, the answer has been no.


Aaron David Miller, Frida Ghitis, Shadi Hamid, Timothy Stanley, Donna Brazile, John Avlon, Julian Zelizer, Ruben Navarrette Jr., LZ Granderson, Bob Greene, cnn.com: Obama in command; Romney plays it safe

Domenico Montanaro, NBC News: NBC/WSJ poll: Obama leads by 45 points with Latinos


Aaron Morrison, loop21.com: Obama vs. Romney: Top 5 Foreign Policy Differences

Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life: Latinos, Religion and Campaign 2012: Catholics Favor Obama, Evangelicals Divided


Pew Research Center for the People & the Press: On Eve of Foreign Debate, Growing Pessimism about Arab Spring Aftermath

Walter Shapiro, Columbia Journalism Review: How could voters still be undecided? Try asking them


Juan Williams, the Hill: Debunking the GOP's false narratives about the Benghazi attack

Obama Said to Be More Assured on Race

Jodi Kantor, a reporter for the New York Times who has chronicled the racial aspects of Barack Obama's candidacy and then his presidency, highlighted by publication this year of "The Obamas," a book about the first family, returned to the subject Sunday in the Times.


". . . like an actor originating a role on Broadway, Mr. Obama has been performing a part that no one else has ever played," Kantor wrote, "and close observers say they can see him becoming as assured on race in public as he is in private conversation. In 2009, the new president's statement on the arrest of a black Harvard professor by a white police officer set off days of negative headlines; in 2012, he gave a commanding but tender lament over the killing of a black teenager, Trayvon Martin, by a white man.

" 'As he's gotten more comfortable being president, he's gotten more comfortable being him,' said Brian Mathis, an Obama fund-raiser.


"Asked when they could sense that shift, several advisers and friends mentioned the waning hours of Mr. Obama's birthday party in the summer of 2011. As the hour grew late, many of the white guests left, and the music grew 'blacker and blacker,' as the comedian Chris Rock later told an audience. Watching African-American entertainers and sports stars do the Dougie to celebrate a black president in a house built by slaves, Mr. Rock said, 'I felt like I died and went to black heaven.'

"The president, guests recalled, seemed free of calibration or inhibition. He danced with relative abandon, other guests ribbing him about his moves, everyone swaying to Stevie Wonder under a portrait of George Washington. . . "


Supporters in Two Cities Struggle to Honor Ida B. Wells

In this 150th anniversary year marking the birth of Ida B. Wells, the crusading anti-lynching publisher and civil rights activist, admirers in Memphis and Chicago are attempting to raise the profile of a woman they say deserves more attention.


"Ida B. Wells is a hero that we ought to be celebrating much more publicly in Memphis, one of the great intellectual leaders to come out of the city," Dr. Jonathan Judaken, the Spence L. Wilson Chair in Humanities at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., told Journal-isms by telephone. "We're very good at celebrating the music that's come out of the city, but what about the Ida B. Wellses and Richard Wrights, who enabled us to rethink our conventions about the world?"

"The occasion has revived a question that should have been settled decades ago: How should the city honor Wells?," Wendi C. Thomas, a columnist for the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, wrote on Sunday.


"Today, the only formal tribute is a state historical marker erected in 1987 on Beale [Street]; her newspaper office, trashed and torched by an angry white mob that promised to kill Wells if she returned to town, was once nearby.

"To atone for the century-old slight, members of the Memphis City Council, the Shelby County Commission and others have tried again and again to install Wells in her proper place in the city's narrative.


"At the same time, a contingent that thinks fondly of the Civil War has rebuffed all efforts to reconsider the city park that canonizes a slave trader, Confederate general and leader of the Ku Klux Klan."

Judaken said he is working with the city's UrbanArt group and the National Civil Rights Museum to establish a permanent Wells memorial.


Meantime, as Thomas wrote, next week, ". . . Two public lectures, a theatrical presentation and original music will mark Rhodes College's commemoration of what would have been the 150th birthday of the city's best known journalist, Ida B. Wells."

Wells' actual birthday was July 16. On that day in Chicago, where Wells spent the last years of her life, the Ida B. Wells Commemorative Art Committee hosted an informal reception. The Committee has commissioned Richard Hunt, a world-renowned sculptor and Chicago native, to create a Wells monument.


" We've raised a little over $50,000 and need another $250,000," Wells' great-granddaughter, Michelle Duster, told Journal-isms by email on Monday. "If 2,500 people give $100 each, we'll have the money."

The National Association of Black Journalists and the Medill School at Northwestern University annually present an Ida B. Wells Award to a journalist who has championed diversity. This columnist is to receive it in January.


Dorothy Russell, First Asian American at Washington Post

Dorothy Ing Russell, a copy editor at the Washington Post for 28 years who said she was the first Asian American on the Post editorial staff, died Friday at 84 in a Maryland hospice, her son, Matthew W. Russell, told Journal-isms on Monday. He declined to give the cause of death.


Matthew Russell said his mother worked at the Post approximately from 1968 to 1991, when she retired, in part because of carpal tunnel syndrome. She was part of a class-action lawsuit against the Post that accused the newspaper of failing to provide the proper ergonomics furniture. The Post reached a settlement, Matthew Russell said.

Russell was a co-founder [PDF] and treasurer of the Washington chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association and received a lifetime achievement award from the national organization in 1995.


Among the achievements she listed for that occasion:

". . . 1st Asian American on the editorial staff of the Washington Post; 2nd woman editor for the Post; as a national desk copy editor, edited and wrote headlines on the Martin Luther King, Jr. assassination and the Pentagon Papers case; as a Metro desk editor edited the Washington Post's Pulitzer-Prize winning series on the Watergate break-in and cover-up (Bob Woodward & Carl Bernstein, 1973); 1955 acting bureau chief of United Press in Jakarta during the early years of Indonesian independence from the Dutch — the period of 'living dangerously' as many plots to overthrow the Sukarno government were afoot (she had interviewed generals who later disappeared); in 1956 hired as stringer reporter from Indonesia for New York Times, was the 2nd woman stringer ever for the New York Times; 'they assumed I was a man, so I wrote under the name Ing Russell . . .' "


In 1990, Russell wrote an op-ed retort in the Post, "Jimmy Breslin, Coward and Bully," responding to a racist Breslin outburst in the Newsday newsroom directed at a Korean-American co-worker.

She was honored again by AAJA at its 2010 convention in Los Angeles.

"Dorothy was a gracious and reasonable presence on the Metro copy desk," Post colleague Donald P. Baker said on a listserve for Post alumni.


Russell was a native of Hamilton, Ontario, and graduated from journalism's Medill School at Northwestern. When she left the Post, she became a docent at the Freer and Sackler galleries, part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

Matthew Russell said a memorial service would be private, in accordance with his mother's wishes.


French Journalist Attacked, Groped in Tahrir Square

"A journalist for France 24 has described how his female colleague was attacked and groped by a group of men while filming live during protests in Tahrir Square in Cairo on Friday night," Abdel-Rahman Hussein wrote Sunday for the Guardian newspaper in Britain.


"Sonia Dridi was surrounded while filming in the square, with the mob closing in on her as she was reporting. The news channel said in a statement that she was attacked at about 10.30pm.

"Her colleague from the English section of France 24, Ashraf Khalil, was by her side waiting to do his spot next for the camera but cut her off midway and led her off as the crowd began to move in. All this was caught on camera.


" 'Usually one of us goes first then the other, Sonia does the French and I do the English,' he told the Guardian. 'Usually we don't do Tahrir live shots from street level, normally we're on a balcony. We had done an earlier live shot and even then the crowd was annoying.

" 'When we went back for the second live shot the crowd was worse, it was really hard to control the crowd. If you see the video you can see me popping up on the fringe telling people let her work. By the time it was finished everybody was too close and no one was listening to us. I told Sonia to just go straight to [the shop] Hardee's and wait for me because I didn't want her to wait with this crowd of feral youths.'


". . . Numerous incidents of violence and sexual assault against women have been reported over the past 18 months whenever throngs gather in the square, with not everyone necessarily there with the aim of protesting. Sexual harassment is an endemic problem in Egypt dating back to before the revolution."

In February 2011, CBS correspondent Lara Logan "suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault" while covering the jubilant celebration Tahrir Square after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, CBS said at the time.


Short Takes

Clear Channel Outdoor says it is pulling down voter-fraud messages on billboards in the swing states of Ohio and Wisconsin after complaints that they were meant to intimidate voters, the Associated Press reported Monday. "A group of civil rights attorneys and a Cleveland city councilwoman had charged that the billboards discouraged lawful voting, especially by blacks. Polls have shown that black voters heavily support Democratic President Barack Obama."


"A Florida judge denied prosecutors' attempts to seal court records and close future hearings in the prosecution of George Zimmerman, ruling in a hearing today that 'this is an open court, this is a public case,' " Lilly Chapa reported Friday for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

"Kimbriell Kelly, editor and publisher of the Chicago Reporter, is leaving the civic-minded nonprofit investigative news organization after eight years to join the Washington Post's investigative team," Robert Feder reported Thursday for Time Out Chicago.


Commemorating the 10th anniversary of Hampton University's Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications, the school inducted members into its Hall of Fame Thursday. They include Tony Brown, the school's dean emeritus and producer of "Tony Brown's Journal;" Sheila R. Solomon, veteran newspaper editor and recruiter; Debra A. Miller, global marketing communications expert; Allison Seymour, morning news anchor, WTTG-TV, Washington, D.C.; the late Robert Sengstacke Abbott, founder of the Chicago Defender; and Spencer Christian, former weather reporter for ABC-TV's "Good Morning America."

Josh Eure, most recently a senior producer at ABC News in New York, has joined KPNX-TV in Phoenix and Republic Media as assistant news director and senior content manager, according to the 24/7 Newsroom. Eure worked with "ABC News Now" and before that, was coordinating producer for "World News Now" and "Good Morning America."


The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian is presenting "Racist Stereotypes and Cultural Appropriation in American Sports," a symposium and community conversation Thursday, Nov. 1, from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. in the museum's Rasmuson Theater in Washington, D.C. The symposium will be webcast live.

In assessing BET's new late-night "Don't Sleep" hosted by T.J. Holmes, Jon Caramanica wrote Friday in the New York Times, "An advocacy streak runs throughout it — in favor of gay marriage, in favor of affirmative action, against demeaning reality-TV portrayals of black women. In short, it's building a set of social and political norms that could apply not just to this show, but also to a channel that's looking to speak with one voice."


"Alfred Kumalo, a South African photographer whose work chronicled the brutalities of apartheid and the rise of Nelson Mandela, died of renal failure in a Johannesburg hospital on Sunday night, the ruling party said Monday," the Associated Press reported. "The African National Congress described Kumalo as a 'rare and significant talent that was pivotal in raising social consciousness and exposing the brutality of the apartheid administration.' He was 82."

"The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard is offering a new research and study opportunity: a short-term visiting fellowship for individuals to work on special projects designed to advance journalism," the foundation announced. ". . . Applicants need not be practicing journalists, but must demonstrate the ways in which their work at Harvard and the Nieman Foundation may improve the prospects for journalism's future, whether related to research, programming, design, financial strategies or another topic."


"Turkish authorities are engaging in widespread criminal prosecution and jailing of journalists, and are applying other forms of severe pressure to promote self-censorship in the press, a CPJ analysis shows," the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Monday. "CPJ has found highly repressive laws, particularly in the penal code and anti-terror law; a criminal procedure code that greatly favors the state; and a harsh anti-press tone set at the highest levels of government. Turkey's press freedom situation has reached a crisis point."

In Somalia, "A Shabelle Media journalist was wounded by gunmen in the capital Mogadishu on Sunday evening, witnesses said," the Shabelle Media Network reported on Sunday. "Mohamed Mohamud Tuuryare was approached by two unknown men on Sunday night in the district of Wadajir the men circled the journalist and pulled out pistols and began firing on him."


"The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the official harassment of two executives of a Bolivian newspaper that has reported on government corruption in the northern department of Pando," the organization said on Friday. "Both journalists sought refuge in Brazil for three days after the episode, according to news reports."

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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (www.mije.org). Reprinted on The Root by permission.