June 25 2009

Huffington Post, At Least Get the Facts Right

Donna Wiesner Keene

Stockholm, Sweden

At some point in politics, one begins to read the Washington Times for confirmation, not information, and the Washington Post for laughs.  The Huffington Post isn't where conservatives go for their news, but from thousands of miles away on the recent Freedom Cruise by the National Rifle Association and the Freedom Alliance founded by Oliver North, The Huffington Post claims to know not only what we cruisers were doing, but what we are thinking.  Andy Ostroy's article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andy-ostroy/the-freedom-cruise-newt-a_b_216036.html) attacks my sandals, my friends, and my security.

Ostroy's source is the piano player in a bar.  The mere presence of a few ex-Congressmen and an ex-Attorney General is supposed to have ruined the enjoyment of 2,000 Eurodam cruise ship revelers. I guess the thirty couples who asking me how to get on the next Freedom Cruise were an unfair sample.

But to claim my husband was dancing!  Both his knees need to be replaced from an old toboggan accident, but after the operation he won't dance, ski, or play tennis again, much as we love these activities.  And so-called news sources could at least get our name right, "Keene" not "Kenne."

But who says the truth matters?  The reading I took was Peter Schweizer's wonderful book Makers and Takers: Why conservatives work harder, feel happier, have closer families, take fewer drugs, give more generously, value honesty more, are less materialistic ... a long title for a book that uses surveys and statistics to discuss the tolerance for truth among liberals and conservatives (liberals lie). Meanwhile, Senator John Ensign (D-NV) resigns because of an affair with a staffer and President Clinton (affair with an underage staffer) and Barney Frank (D-MA, male housemate's prostitution ring led out of the Congressman's house) make news. No irony there. 

While we meet with Estonian dissidents and legislators, tour in Russia, Denmark and Germany and share a boat with foreign nationals, we feel secure in our anonymity - before The Huffington Post raises the security risk.  We were minding our own business enjoying the company of friends, sitting at dinner in amiable conversations that rotate amongst ourselves so that all two hundred of us can get to unwind together.

In any hotel across America, the piano player would be fired for breaking the contractual condition of privacy of guest. If the managers of the Holland America Cruise Line cruise line do not value our business, don't book us or let me know directly so I can throw my Mariner Society pin overboard now, while it gives me due satisfaction.

Much is made in Ostroy's rant about Newt Gingrich's view of gays.  I've closed the bar with Newt at the sing-a-longs, and countless times he interrupts his vacation to converse and accommodate teenagers and oldsters alike with photographs and autographs.  In twenty years of one association or another, he has never displayed a harsh word or emotion or approached any one in anger. Like Presidential candidates Duncan Hunter this year and Bob Barr in past years, he converses only when spoken to on Freedom Cruises, but always when asked.  Compare that to "my" local Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA), who make headlines abusing his wife and a nine-year-old black boy on a street, among others.

And Newt's lovely wife Callista, former staffer for an openly gay Republican Congressman?  Never let the fact of tolerance stand in the way of your preconceived notions.

When Obama came into office, many conservatives were aware of their increased vulnerability.  Many had opposed the state's new-found power within The Patriot Act, on citizen's rights to privacy, against search and seizure, and other protections like search warrants.  Obama has forbidden lobbyists from helping clients with stimulus package money - there goes the right to petition, guaranteed in the Constitution.  The Internet and journalists in the Huffington Post have full rights, but not conservative radio talk show hosts - so the new FEC is adding to the licensing, and there goes the free press, our First Amendment.

So somehow the gays and straights in our little cruise group are now news because by our very presence, we offend other gays and straights in the cruise - the right to free association.  As I listened to Soviet dissidents talk a few days ago in Estonia, I wondered if any of us would have been strong enough to go to jail three times in a row, to spend 16 years locked in a prison cell so that we could protest our government.

How strong will we be when small pockets of law-abiding citizens are demonized and disposed of in our country? I would think about my family and know that the next generation deserves to live free.  It is a courage I would rather not have to show.

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