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January 27, 2005
WaPo Playing Petty Games With Inaugural Speech

Rarely will readers experience the level of intellectual dishonesty that Glenn Kessler and Scott Wilson reach in their report today on a jailed Jordanian dissenter and President Bush's reaction to a question about him. During his press conference, a reporter asked the president about Ali Hattar, currently jailed on slander charges in Jordan:

President Bush was stumped yesterday when he was asked at his news conference about the plight of a Jordanian man who faces a two-year prison term for slander after giving a lecture last month calling for a boycott of American goods and companies. "I'm unaware of the case," he said.

The circumstances are somewhat murky, but in many ways the case signifies the difficult choices and trade-offs inherent in Bush's call in his inaugural address for the right to dissent and protest around the world. ...

"Freedom has to include the freedom to criticize the United States," [HRW spokesman Tom] Malinowski said. "If Bush would stand up for this guy, people who doubt his sincerity would be impressed. It is an opportunity for the administration."

In the days following Bush's ringing call for promoting democracy as a moral and national-security solution for the world's ills, one could almost see the wheels turning in the mainstream media. First the media picked apart the references to God as too much Christian triumphalism, and then scoffed at the scope of Bush's vision, ignoring his warning that it would take "generations" to eradicate tyranny.

Now we see yet another strategy to discredit Bush: toss out the names of dissenters in authoritarian countries that dislike America and see if Bush knows who they are. When he doesn't recognize the name, they write analysis pieces on page A-4 in the Washington Post. If he really cared about human liberty, we are to say, then why doesn't he care about [insert obscure name here]?

Unfortunately, even in this case, Kessler and Wilson pick a pretty poor test case for their gotcha game. The American embassy in Jordan has already questioned Hattar's detention. And Hattar hardly represents the cause of freedom in the Hashemite Kingdom:

Hattar is not a democracy activist, nor would he be considered an appealing figure by many Americans, but he has been charged under a type of vague law frequently used to suppress dissent across the Middle East. ...

Hattar -- who Qadi said is a Christian -- belongs to Jordan's professional association of engineers, whose membership is made up mostly of men of Palestinian descent and is among the most politically militant in the country. He is a delegate of the group's "anti-normalization committee," which lobbies against Jordan's 1994 agreement to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, a decision he and others have demanded be reversed.

What's more, Hattar's charges don't exclusively deal with his call for a boycott of America, if they do at all. Hattar has been jailed for slandering the Jordanian government, which contends that he told audiences that the monarchy planned a genocide against its own subjects. Hattar doesn't even tell the truth about this, a factoid that Kessler and Wilson leave for the last paragraph of their article:

But government officials said at the time of his arrest that the charges against him were related to his contention that the Jordanian government was buying U.S. weapons for use against its own people. At the time of his arrest, Hattar said he did not mention Jordan in his speech. But in the following question period, he said he used Jordan as an example of developing countries buying U.S. weapons for use against "their own people."

In other words, Hattar is a Palestinian radical who indulges in the kind of lunatic conspiracy theories that terror groups use to legitimize attacks on Israel, America, and their own governments. Hattar isn't in the streets advocating democracy; he's advocating for the destruction of Israel and probably the replacement of the Jordanian monarchy with a PLO-style terrorocracy.

This piece is written in such a transparently deceptive manner that desperation can be the only explanation. Apparently, the president's speech had a stunning effect on leftist journalists, who now will stoop to attempts like this to discredit it. Pathetic.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 27, 2005 6:33 AM

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