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Romney battles the “Fat Jap Syndrome.”
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During a campaign swing, in a private setting somewhere (the campaign plane or some such), the jovial Agnew laughingly referred to his friend Gene Oishi, who was a Japanese-American, as “the Fat Jap.” Having known Oishi as long as he did, Agnew saw his laughing remark as what he intended it to be — a fond, fraternal ethnic reference from one immigrant’s son to another. In fact, in using the term “Jap” he was doing no more and no less than what Franklin Roosevelt did in a formal presidential radio address to the nation and what Eleanor Roosevelt had done — on camera. The term, however distasteful it may be seen today, was then commonplace.
But suddenly, what was OK for the liberal FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt was not OK for Republican Spiro Agnew. While reporter Oishi was reluctant to say anything, the Washington Post, as the redoubtable Larry Sabato later wrote, “eventually broke the story, forcing a flustered Agnew to offer excuses and then apologies.” Sabato, a professor at the University of Virginia, included the incident in his 1991 book Feeding Frenzy: How Attack Journalism Has Transformed American Politics.
What, exactly, did Agnew’s “Fat Jap” remark have to do with what were the three central issues of the 1968 campaign — Vietnam, the economy, and crime? The latter issue of hot relevance in the day after four years of massive riots in places like Los Angeles, Newark, Detroit, and Washington, D.C.?
Agnew’s “Fat Jap” remark in 1968 was in fact what we might now call the original appearance of a political game called “Fat Jap Syndrome.” Which is to say, Agnew’s “Fat Jap” line — however inappropriate it may seem then or now — bore absolutely no relevance to any of the major issues of the day. The resulting manufactured controversy — ginned up by the liberal Washington Post and quickly magnified by the liberal media print and broadcast outlets of the day — was solely designed to momentarily take voters’ eyes away from the issues of Lyndon Johnson’s record as president. Not to mention the consequent linkage of Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey’s record as LBJ’s vice president.
To wit: the original “Fat Jap” controversy was a rabbit chase. Entertaining, a media-fashioned “gotcha” moment designed to both distract from the major issues while trying to damage Agnew — and by extension Nixon — as a bigot. Charges the media of the day simply refused outright to make against the liberal Roosevelts who used exactly the same term.
You know, that old liberal media double-standard thing.
This is precisely what the squabble over Mitt Romney’s taxes is all about. Romney’s taxes are nothing more or less than the latest round in a 2012 game of “Fat Jap Syndrome.”
Senator John McCain, who reviewed some 20 years of Romney tax returns when considering the Governor as a potential 2008 running mate, says he saw absolutely nothing amiss. Doubtless true.
That, however, is not the point. If Mitt Romney were to release a lifetime of well-in-order, nothing-amiss tax returns, Team Obama would find the “Fat Jap” — the political gotcha.
And they would use it precisely as the liberal media of the day in 1968 used Agnew’s remark. As a distraction, a rabbit chase — this time, in 2012, to distract from the Obama record. Just as the original “Fat Jap” remark was used in 1968 to distract from the Johnson-Humphrey record.
The difference now is that playing “Fat Jap Syndrome” is commonplace, an everyday occurrence when Republicans deal with the liberal media.
But, thankfully, there’s a problem for the Left.
The liberal media, to its anger, no longer has the media playing field to itself. Rush is out there, Number One on radio and on the Internet. Sean and Levin and all of conservative talk radio are out there. All of them and more know how to play Fat Jap Syndrome as well as the other side. Donald Trump has typically stepped up to the plate — demanding Obama’s college applications, his grades, his passport records, the records from the Obama real estate deal with convicted felon Tony Rezko. Mark Levin has asked for the names of Obama’s drug dealers from the days of Obama’s self-admitted drug use. Every time the discussion moves away from Obama’s record, there will be conservatives in the face of the Obama campaign ready to play the political hard ball that is Fat Jap Syndrome. Indeed, in one of the twists of fate that especially angers liberals, Fox News was created by Roger Ailes — the very man who, as a Nixon media adviser in 1968, was there in person to take note of just how the game of “Fat Jap Syndrome” was originally played. Doubtless as a result, Fox News can spot “Fat Jap Syndrome” from miles away.
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